Reactions to the Bass Pro Group Acquisition of the Fish Holdings LLC
Bass Pro just made a big move to corner the market on the fishing boat industry. With today’s announcement of Bass Pro Group purchasing Fish Holdings, LLC from Platinum Equity (see the full release below), the Bass Pro Group now has a solid line up of both aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats in their stables.
Since the announcement was posted, our phones have been ringing off the hook asking what this means for the future of the Ranger, Triton and Stratos boat brands. What does it mean for the pro anglers sponsored by those boat brands, and most importantly the consumers of those boat brands?
While I don’t have my crystal ball handy, I think this could be good for all parties, given that certain things stay the same and certain things change.
What does it mean for the future of the three boat brands purchased? All three of the purchased boat brands build quality boats. They’ve invested a lot of money, technology and time into their processes and their people, and their state-of-the-art facilities aren’t going anywhere which likely means their people aren’t going anywhere. That’s good for the consumers in that for the most part, the people you’ve worked with will likely still be the people you will work with in the future.
If anything when you see brands merge like this, the first questions are hopefully related to synergies or borrowing of technology and processes to make all boats better. That again is good for all consumers.
I think what you have now is a lot of tiers and a lot of options for fishing boats out on the market. The early word is that Ranger, Triton and Stratos will maintain their boat building autonomy which is what needs to happen for all brands to continue to be successful. But now they will all be able to leverage each others experiences with those of the Bass Pro Group.
What does it mean from a professional angler standpoint? Well that could get a little more tricky. Or maybe it won’t. If they truly maintain their autonomy and operating budgets, including marketing and sponsorship budgets, then you likely won’t see a lot of change there either. Maybe some guys will enjoy being under the Bass Pro Group umbrella even more because Bass Pro is a lot more than just fishing boats. I think the future looks pretty bright there for guys as well.
What does it mean for other boat manufacturers? Well it’s not like there aren’t still many options for anglers and boaters out on the market after this acquisition. You still have Phoenix, Skeeter, Bass Cat, Legend and other popular aluminum fishing brands like Lund, Express Boats, Polar Kraft and others. So it’s not like the landscape of boat building will likely change as a result.
But those brands will also be paying attention to the formidable competition formed when some of the biggest names in fishing boats just joined forces.
How do the companies really feel about the acquisition? Ranger Product Knowledge was last week and everyone came back talking about how upbeat and positive everyone at Ranger was. So it sounds like they are all pretty happy with the move that they more than likely new was coming during that event. Anglers all received letters from Randy Hopper today telling them not to worry it was business as usual for them.
This acquisition doesn’t come as a shock to us. Platinum Equity made it known they were shopping their Fish Holdings, LLC earlier this year. Fish Holdings, LLC was formed when Platinum Equity bought Ranger Boats when parent company Genmar Holdings, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
We figured it would take a real power house in the fishing or boating industry to acquire the iconic brands. There were really only two groups we felt would have the financial means and the interest to purchase the brands. So it really was no surprise that Johnny Morris and his Bass Pro Group stepped in and made the purchase. Morris has been instrumental in the growth of fishing, the recreational fishing industry and the boating industries alike. And his legendary Bass Pro brand is synonymous with fishing so we knew he had the means.
I for one am excited to see what comes from this acquisition. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for growth of the brands. But I’m also a little nervous that the the boats start to blend together more. I hope that each brand keeps its autonomy and Ranger boats don’t start to look like Nitro boats and vice versa, and I don’t want features on Tracker boats showing up on other brand aluminums.
I think consumers like options. My hope would be that through synergies, the brands provide better boats for all anglers and boaters, and each brand becomes more efficient in their distribution to offer consumers more value for their money.