At a bankruptcy auction held in Minnesota last Friday, a California-based company called Platinum Equity wound up buying fabled bass-boat brand Ranger along with Stratos, Champion, and several others formerly owned by Genmar.
How–or even if–a private equity company known for toughly squeezing bottom lines will continue to manage one of fishing’s best-known brands remains to be seen. Also up in the air is just what relationship the new Ranger owners will have with FLW Outdoors, the pro-bass tournament series. Genmar principal Irwin Jacobs, who until last week controlled Ranger, developed the FLW Tour as a means of hyping and selling bass boats. He still owns the tour, but not the boats.
The boat business–and most especially luxury brands–has severely tanked in the current recession. Dealers have been unable to find the credit to finance inventories. And the home-equity credit lines and other credit sources that allowed consumers to buy boats basically dried up.
Right now the whole thing is a huge muddle with laid-off boat workers unfortunately stuck in the middle. Where things are going is anybody’s guess. Will $50,000 bass-fishing rigs undergo a new renaissance if and when the economy recovers? Or have they gone the way of our notorious dot-com and real-estate bubbles?