Fountain on the rise

Published 3:13 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Staff Writer

Like waves on the ocean, 2010 was a year of ups and downs at Fountain Powerboats, earning it the eighth spot on the Top 10 stories of 2010 list.
After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August of 2009, Fountain was able to emerge from bankruptcy protection early in 2010. The company’s $19.6 million bank note was purchased by Oxford Investment Group. A bankruptcy auction of the company’s assets was set, but the company instead moved to restructure its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reorganized with Liberty Investments.
After a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing, chief bankruptcy Judge Randy Doub approved Fountain’s reorganization plan, lifting the company from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
With Doub’s approval, Liberty became the majority owner of Fountain Powerboats. Reggie Fountain was retained as the company’s president and CEO, and Bill Gates was named chairman.
The company shifted focus from building what Fountain called “pleasure boats” to government-contracted boats to be used by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, among other branches of service, such as a 42-foot interceptor-type boat. Even the government of Bahrain placed an order for 24 Interceptors.
Fountain predicted if the company could make up to $80 million in sales by the end of 2010, it could hire back all 400-plus employees it had at one time.
In November, it was announced that the Florida-based plants for Donzi Marine and Pro-Line boats would move under one roof at Fountain. Liberty is the majority owner of all three.
After more than 30 years developing the powerboat company into the world’s leading high-performance boat manufacturer, Reggie Fountain resigned from the company he founded in December. He said he wanted to return to the “roots” of the boat building process, stating key differences in opinion and philosophy between the current owners and himself on how to run the company.
“I’ve always been one that plotted his own course,” Fountain said.
He added the best way to utilize his talents is in new product development, racing and working directly with his customers.
Having built more than $1 billion worth of boats, Fountain announced firm plans to move forward, and keep his passion for powerboats.
After Fountain stepped down, Gates named John E. Walker the new CEO and president of the powerboat company.
Walker, who is also affiliated with Pro-Line Powerboats, Baja and Donzi — as well as the president of the companies – said he was happy to step in and help the Beaufort County-based boat line, as he has been in the boat manufacturing industry since the 1980’s.
After taking the reins, Walker said he is focusing on the future and where to take the company by closing the Superstore and signing new dealers to rebuild Fountain’s dealer network.
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