Chaparral and Robalo President Jim Lane passed away Saturday at the age of 73, after a long battle with leukemia.
Several in the industry praised Lane for his long years of service to the industry.
"We all have lost a dear friend with the passing of Jim Lane, and we send our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues," Mark Schwabero, CEO of Brunswick Corp., told Boating Industry. "A staunch advocate for the marine industry, Jim was a true professional who seemingly knew just about everyone in the business. Jim was always generous with his time and insights, and will be truly missed."
Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Penta of the Americas, noted Lane's significant impact on the boating industry.
"Over the last 50 years, Jim Lane has made countless contributions to our industry and undoubtedly left a lasting legacy," he told Boating Industry. "Though well-known for his financial skills, Jim’s best trait was the ability to lead with a passion that resulted in the development of trusted, long-lasting relationships. His wisdom was leveraged within ABBA to give the organization an advantage and build a stronger membership. All of us here at Volvo Penta are thankful for the time we’ve spent working with Jim and feel even more blessed to have called him a friend for so many years. He will be missed."
Another industry partner, John Pfeifer, president of Mercury Marine. echoed that sentiment.
"Mercury Marine and the boating world lost a good friend, partner and industry pillar with the passing of Jim Lane, " said Pfeifer. "Jim was an astute businessman who truly understood the intricacies of the boating industry, but he also loved to spend time on the water. He will be missed by Mercury Marine, just as he will be missed throughout the boating world. We wish the very best for Jim's family and close friends."
Phil Miklo, founder of Oak Hill Marina, a Chaparral dealer in Arnolds Park, Iowa, worked with Lane for 25 years.
"When I started with Chaparral Jim was very understanding that I was a very small dealer and he was willing to help us get started with just a truck load of boats ... anyone that took the time to visit with Jim knew that he was a wonderful and caring person," Miklo said. "When I would visit with him he loved to talk about his place in the mountains and how it was so peaceful. He is now at the highest mountain he can get to and can rest in peace. Jim will be missed by many."
Even before he started Texas Marine, owner Mike Hebert found a friend and mentor in Lane.
"I met Jim Lane while I was working for a Chaparral boat dealer in Beaumont, Texas, when I was just 16 years old," Hebert said. "He came in to meet with the owner and took the time to introduce himself and speak with me. At that point I knew Jim as not only a friend and someone I admired but he also became like a mentor that I learned so much from through the years.
"From the very beginning of Jim's career in the marine industry he had a huge impact on the industry and everyone he came in contact with. Jim’s intellect and business management skills helped shape the industry to what it is today. But what made Jim truly great was not just the work he did, it was his passion for people. He had a big heart that clearly showed to everyone.
"Jim was one of the most dynamic people I have ever known and I will miss him dearly – his loss will be felt not just by his family, friends, and company, but also by the boating industry as a whole," Hebert added.
Lane joined Chaparral in 1977, spending almost 40 years leading the company along with friend and founder Buck Pegg. He served a number of roles in industry associations, including as a member of the board of directors of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
"Jim was a great supporter of NMMA and I always enjoyed my time with him," NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in a statement. "He was on the search committee that hired me sixteen and a half years ago. His passing is a significant loss. Our sympathies to his wife, Damaris, and the Chaparral family. May God bless Jim, Damaris, his family, and the entire Chaparral family."
After Chaparral's acquisition by RPC Energy Services, Inc. in 1986 (and subsequent spin-off of as Marine Products Corporation in 2001), Lane served on the corporation's board of directors.
In 2014, Lane and Pegg were named the Boating Industry Movers & Shakers of the Year.
In that 2014 article, Lane described what made the nearly 40-year partnership between him and Pegg work.
“We have such diverse interests. Buck really enjoys the manufacturing side and I enjoy the business side,” Lane said at the time. “The relationship that we set up in the very beginning hasn’t really changed a great deal. We meet on everything, we make decisions together.”
He also talked about the importance for the company to invest in its employees and its dealer network.
“We can’t say enough about how much the employees have helped us grow the business,” Lane said. “There’s a pride in the company and the town, and our employees work together to help us build the highest quality product.”
The company also spent more than $18 million supporting its dealers during the recession to help them move product through the pipeline and stay financially stable. When dealers did go out of business, that allowed Chaparral to better control the product, distributing it to other dealers rather than having it end up at auction.
Lane is survived by his wife Damaris; his son, Mark Lane, wife Donna; daughter Beth Sessoms, husband Kelly; and five grandchildren; step daughter Lindsay Peacock, husband Greg; and two step grandchildren; sister Joan Brandt; and many other family members and friends.
James Albert Lane Jr. was born September 23,1942, in Wauchula, Fla.. In 1964, he earned a B.S.B.A. accounting degree from the University of Florida. He worked for Ernst & Ernst as an account supervisor overseeing a large portfolio of international clients. In 1965 he earned CPA accreditation. From 1969 to 1977, he served as CFO of the Delta Corporation.
In 1977 , he joined his paddleball partner William “Buck” Pegg at his Fort Lauderdale-based Fiberglass Fabricators boat company.
A memorial for Lane has been planned for 3:30p.m. on Thursday at Crossroads Baptist Church, 3001 Country Club Drive, Valdosta, Ga. In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations in Jim’s honor to the Crossroads Baptist Church or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.