RV company Winnebago buying boat maker Chris-Craft

June 4, 2018

RV maker Winnebago Industries will buy legendary boat maker Chris-Craft as it works to diversify its portfolio in the outdoors market.

Chris-Craft is an iconic, premium brand that shares many similarities with our own heritage Winnebago brand, including a commitment to providing customers with the highest quality products and services, said Winnebago Industries President and Chief Executive Michael Happe in a news release.

Winnebago based in Forest City, Iowa, but with executive offices in Eden Prairie is the second manufacturer of recreational vehicles to buy a large boat company in the past week. Medina-based Polaris Industries Inc., one of the largest makers of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, said on Thursday would acquire for $805 million the pontoon boat business of Boat Holdings, based in Elkhart, Ind.

Winnebago, a maker of motor homes and travel trailers, did not immediately disclose the terms of the acquisition of Chris-Craft and said the boat company would operate as a distinct unit of Winnebago with its results reported under the other category.

In a shareholder presentation, Winnebago said the acquisition aligns with Winnebagos strategy to further diversify portfolio and add new growth platforms within outdoor lifestyle market.

Winnebago had annual revenue in 2017 of $1.5 billion and net income of $71.3 million. The company said the Chris-Craft acquisition would be immediately accretive to its fiscal 2019 earnings.

The Chris-Craft brand is legendary in the boat business with roots back to 1874. Winnebago is buying the business from Stellican Ltd., which has owned it since 2001.

Chris-Craft is known for classic designs, craftsmanship and use of premium materials. It produces 18 boat models ranging from 21 to 38 feet, with prices for the largest model starting at $898,960.

Chris-Craft is based in Sarasota, Fla., and Winnebago said its operations would remain there and the units president, Stephen Heese, will continue to lead it.

The number of new powerboat sales have increased steadily in the past five years both in number of units sold and retail value, according to the presentation to shareholders. In 2012, 146,000 powerboat sold in the U.S. with a retail value of $4.7 billion. By 2016, the number of units sold had risen 29.4 percent to 189,000 units and the retail value rose 74.5 percent to $8.2 billion.

The last acquisition Winnebago made was in September 2016 when it acquired the travel trailer company Grand Design Recreational for about $500 million. That deal gave Winnebago a larger footprint in the faster growing travel trailer segment of the recreational vehicle industry.

Stellican Ltd., a London-based investment firm, owns high-end, discretionary consumer products, especially within the powersport and luxury goods area. With Novator Partners LLC, Stellican previously owned Indian Motorcycle, which was sold to Polaris in 2011.

Shares of Winnebago Industries closed at $36.80 Monday, up 80 cents or 2.2 percent. Year-to-date shares are down 33.7 percent. In the last 52 weeks shares have traded between $25.75 and $58.65 per share.

Patrick Kennedy 612-673-7926