The latest chapter in Chris-Craft's History
In 2000, Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) owned Chris-Craft and eight other boat companies. When the boating conglomerate went bankrupt, Chris-Craft's fate was up in the air and hundreds of employees were out of a job. The factory was abandoned and boats sat in various stages of completion. OMC's different brands were auctioned off.
Through a short, but complicated, process, the company passed through a few hands and ended up with Stellican Ltd., a private equity firm that specialized in turn-arounds. At the helm was Stephen Julius. In 1998, he had purchased another ailing but famous boat maker, the Italian company Riva. Julius restructured Riva and developed the Aquariva, the successor to the legendary Aquarama. A short two years later, he sold Riva for a profit to the Ferretti Group, but was sad to see the boat company go. So, he set out to find another legendary boat brand.
Julius had met Steve Heese at Harvard Business School years before. A trusted friend and business associate, Tampa native Heese was the obvious choice to run the day-to-day business activities as Chris-Craft started back up. Together as Chairman and President, they worked to hire back key employees and build a management team. Quickly, they completed the boats on the line and worked with dealers around the world to clear the inventory. At the same time, they moved forward with the plan for the brand's future. It was important to re-establish Chris-Craft's image of a luxury product through design, quality control and marketing.
In September 2001, as the company was about to complete its first brand-new boat, the world was stunned by attacks on the World Trade Center. Consumer confidence plummeted and the world's attention was focused on terrorism, but a small boat company in Sarasota, Florida continued to prepare for its debut at The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October. The company had eliminated all but a few of the models from the previous line, representing more than 75% of the previous year's sales. It was a big gamble, but one that paid off. Standing nervously at the boat show as the doors opened the first morning, Heese remembers a customer walked in and bought a boat on the spot. The team knew they were on the right path.
Over the next year, Chris-Craft continued to unveil heritage-inspired boats that harkened back to Chris-Craft's heyday of the golden 1950s. The core products revolved around the Launch, Corsair and Roamer lines - all were united by distinctive design flairs such as a reverse transom and a flared bow. In that first year, the company announced sales of $26 million, more than 200 members on the team, and plans for two more models. During such a strange year for the economy and the country, Chris-Craft was off to a solid start.
Since 2001, the product line has grown to more than 19 models in the runabout, center console and express cruiser categories. As the company continues to grow and prosper, the holding company has chosen to add another iconic American brand to the family. Julius and Heese acquired Indian Motorcycle Company from bankruptcy proceedings in 2004. Visit their Web site to see Indian's latest news