Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ranger Boats Sells To Bass Pro Shop; The Sky Is Falling

On December 11, 2014 Johnny Morris (founder of Bass Pro Shop) announced that he had signed an definitive agreement to purchase Ranger, Triton and Stratos Boats (Fishing Holdings LLC) from Platinum Equity. This blog will explain what this means to customers and dealers. We will also have some fun with those that claim that the sky is falling after hearing the news.

Ranger Boats has had four owners before Bass Pro Group LLC (Johnny Morris's new company) signed a letter to of intent to purchase Fishing Holdings LLC. Ranger was founded in 1968 by Forrest and Nina Wood in Flippin, AR. The Woods were one of the cornerstones that spawned the sport of competitive Bass Fishing. Without them and a very few others, the sport we love and participate in today would have never developed. They ran Ranger Boats for many years, supporting tournaments, anglers, conservation efforts and the town of Flippin along the way. As time past an opportunity to sell the company to a group consisting of some of the Southland Corporation family (of 7-11 fame). That group knew nothing about the business or the sport which cause it to fail and the junk bonds that they used to purchase it were then purchased by Genmar Corporation (Irwin Jacobs). Irwin Jacobs was a Wall Street Raider, he bought businesses and broke them off into parts to sell them off. He had been in the marine business for several years and owned many different boat companies. He purchased Operation Bass and turned it into FLW Outdoors that we know today. The economic downturn of 2008 forced Genmar into bankruptcy. Then Platinum Equity (a global investment firm that purchases businesses, makes them profitable and flips them for profit) purchased Ranger and Stratos Boats in the bankruptcy in 2010. Time came for Platinum Equity to flip Fishing Holding for a large profit and this brings us to today.  Bass Pro Group LLC agreed to purchased Fishing Holding LLC.

What we know today is that Ranger Boats in it's present form will continue to operate in the manner it has for many years. Ranger Boats will not be sold at the Bass Pro Shop locations. Ranger Boats will continue to be managed by the present team, CEO Randy Hopper that has been with Ranger Boats for 40 years, 25 of those as CEO. We know that Ranger Boats has a new owner; Johnny Morris. We know that owners of Ranger Boats will have their warranty and service just like they were promised and will not be affected at all by this change in ownership. What we don't know is what we don't know, going down the road things do change but only time will tell what those changes will be.

As a Ranger Boats dealer since 1988 and having the Ranger's line here at the store since 1986, I am fully confident in the new ownership of Ranger Boats. The only scenario that would have been better in my eyes is if Forrest and Nina Wood would have repurchased Ranger Boats. Having the Tracker -Nitro brands at one of our dealerships since 1998 and having dealt with Mr. Morris's company for many years, I believe in his business plan. Like Forrest and Nina Wood, Johnny Morris is a true cornerstone of our industry. He is responsible for one of the biggest innovations in the history of the boating business; completely factory rigged packages, not unlike Henry Ford's production line. Mr. Morris is also heavily embedded in our sport and has a passion for fishing like Forrest and Nina. He owns many outdoors product companies and gives a lot of his time and money in conservation activities just like Forrest and Nina. Both of the companies have a similar past and investment in our sport. I believe that Johnny Morris purchased Ranger Boats to save it's legacy and to make sure that Ranger Boats would be around for many years to come. Some people buy businesses to flip them and get a return, I believe that Johnny Morris bought Ranger because the sport he loves needs Ranger Boats and if he can make some money, that's good too. Looking forward, if these 2 companies work together and take the best practices of each company, this mega marine deal will work out for everyone; customers, dealers and manufactures. I am looking forward to being here to enjoy the new days for Ranger Boats.

On the day of the announcement and in days since; the phones here at the shop, social media and fishing websites have been bombarded by haters and so called experts saying that Ranger is done and quality will diminish just like it did when Tracker Marine bought ProCraft Boats. People were claiming that you will be able to buy a Ranger at BPS (a fact that we know is not true). Some speak of never buying a Ranger Boat again and discuss brands that they may have to buy instead, the bantering back and fourth was unbelievable. I could go on and on  and on but you get the idea. I have found that most people (not all by any means) that post on these sites don't have a clue on how the industry works. There is no reason on earth that someone as smart as Johnny Morris would pay millions of dollars to purchase a profitable company with the legacy that Ranger Boats has to make it fail. No Reason.

I would be interested to hear any input that you may have on the purchase of Ranger Boats by Bass Pro Group LLC. I have been a Ranger Dealer since 1988 and they have been here at he shop since 1986, I think we will all be fine. As far as I am concerned, it's full speed ahead and I see no reason that the sky is falling.