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  • Marine Industry Mergers & Acquisitions in 2021

    Feb 2, 2021

    The iconic ballad, Sailing by Christopher Cross (Christopher Cross – Sailing (Official Audio) – Bing video), contains the following in its chorus:

    “Just a dream and the wind to carry me, And soon I will be free”

    The song reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Chart on the way to being named the Grammy’s Best Song of the Year for 1980.  Forty years later, the song about creating freedom from daily life could easily have been an anthem for the love affair between Pacific Northwest residents and the water that was rekindled during COVID-19 as many old and new boating enthusiasts discovered the Puget Sound, Columbia River, Willamette River, and countless lakes from Coeur d’ Alene to Sammamish to Detroit.  No recreational activity last year provided a better opportunity to get outside and safely socially distance while remaining with the people in your household than boating.

    As the oldest, most experienced, and knowledgeable business brokerage firm in Washington, Oregon, & Alaska serving entrepreneurs wishing to sell marine businesses, IBA witnessed firsthand as part of professionally selling and determining the market value of multiple companies the strong 2020 financial performance of businesses in the retail boating sector from dealerships to service and repair companies.  Our knowledge was echoed recently by George Harris in a Puget Sound Business Journal article related to the Seattle Boat Show (Patti Payne: Seattle Boat Show virtual showcase readymade to set sail – Puget Sound Business Journal (bizjournals.com)) where he indicated 6604 new boats were sold in the Puget Sound from January through November 2020, an 11.2% increase in sales over the same period in 2019 with a resulting 15.7% increase in the total dollar value of transactions.  In total he indicated that the economic impact of recreational boating and fishing in Washington is approximately $6.9 billion annually, an increase of more than 50% from 2018.  Similar increases have been reported in boating trade journals for Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and across the United States.

    This reinvigorated industry sector has created a robust mergers & acquisitions marketplace where long time business owners can retire in transactions delivering multiple offers, strong deal values, and business buyers can get in early on a micro, local economy that should grow and thrive for years as friends and family join new and established boaters on the water and starter boat owners move upstream to vessels that offer more comfort, power, and the ability to explore the San Juans and Inside Passage.

    In addition, IBA has for multiple decades been the preferred business broker for the entrepreneurial community in the commercial marine industry that supports Alaskan fishing and the shipping ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland.  It is anticipated that with increased distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and the herd immunity that follows that this sector will come back strong in 2021.  We look forward to continuing to facilitate transactions in this area after a pause in 2020.

    A good example of the types of deals that got facilitated by IBA in 2020 was the sale of Marine Servicenter (https://marinesc.com/) to facilitate the retirement of Jim & Jeanna Rard.  The boatyard in Anacortes was sold to an outside buyer interested in continuing the company’s long-time reputation for providing quality service at a fair market price.  The dealership was sold to multiple decade company sales manager, Dan Krier, who fulfilled a lifetime dream of taking the helm of Marine Servicenter with his wife, Lisa, from the captain and first mate that had mentored him and become extended family.  It was an honor to represent Jim & Jeanna in the sale of their company and help them retire.  I hope they will drop a postcard in the mail to me from a distant port when Ruby Slippers and her crew seek land for provisions (The Boat Guy Tries on Some Ruby Slippers – boats.com ).  I wish Dan & Peter well as they set sail toward new horizons behind the strong winds in place supporting the business models they acquired.

    As a Pacific Northwest boy who had a grandfather in the Navy stationed out of Bremerton in World War 2, grew up spending weekends on the Columbia River on a family Sea Ray, raced sailboats with my father, and recently spent three days scuba diving with my son in Hawaii in December, a love of the water is in my DNA and I am passionate about supporting Pacific Northwest entrepreneurs and their employees serving the commercial and leisure boating communities of Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.  I believe they are as much of the fabric of what makes this region great as aerospace, software, wine, or recreational clothing and supplies.  I would also like to say thank you to Frank Butler, who unfortunately passed away last year (Eight Bells: Frank Butler, Founder of Catalina Yachts | Cruising World), for founding and cultivating Catalina Yachts into the largest U.S. based maker of fiberglass sailboats.  In many ways, Mr. Butler was the Henry Ford of Sailboats in America.  It is important to recognize excellence and achievement of entrepreneurs small and large. They are the backbone of the American economy.  It is they who create and offer jobs for most of our family and friends and provide case examples of the limitless ladder of financial opportunity available to anyone in the United States with a vision and the management acumen to get a business on plane and picking up speed as it sails toward the horizon.

    IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, accounting, legal, wealth advisory, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.

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