Medina-based Polaris Industries has bought the assets of Larson Boat Group for an undisclosed price in a move that further expands its fresh dive into the boating industry.
Two of the largest Larson boat dealers in Minnesota said that they learned about the sale Thursday after receiving a letter from Marquis-Larson Boat Group CEO Rob Parmentier.
Larson officials could not be reached for comment, but Polaris spokeswoman Erika Frederick said the deal included the Larson, Larson FX, Striper and Escape brands. She declined to comment further.
Dealers noted that acquiring Larson boats will make Polaris an even bigger player in the marine industry, especially in the fishing boat arena. Larson is well-known for its Larson FX line of fishing boats and its Striper offshore, saltwater boats.
The luxury Carver Yacht and Marquis Yacht brands controlled by the Marquis-Larson entity are expected to remain separate from the Polaris sale. They will continue to be run by Parmentier, dealers said.
The Larson deal is the latest in a boating industry that is consolidating.
Polaris entered the boating industry in July with its $805 million purchase of Boat Holdings LLC. That deal brought Polaris a giant that makes 200 types of pontoon, deck and cruiser boats that sell under brand names such as Bennington, Godfrey, Hurricane and Rinker.
As far as the Larson deal, Jeff Hannay, whose Hannay's Marine in Minneapolis is one of the largest Larson dealers in the state, said he isn't sure what to expect with the Polaris acquisition.
"We don't really know what to think. It's a little early to say," he said. "We are a little bit excited but a little bit on the anxious side, too."
Hannay said the move to buy Larson could signal that Polaris is jumping into the fishing boat industry "with both feet."
Hannay said he has not been contacted by anyone from Polaris yet, but has been told by Larson officials that a Polaris representative will be at the Larson boat booth at this week's Minneapolis Boat Show to answer questions.
In November, Polaris partnered for the first time with the world's largest fishing tournament organizer, Fishing League Worldwide (FLW). That move, paired with the Larson acquisition, could mean "they will be aggressive when it comes to getting sales and gaining market share," Hannay said.
What Hannay and other dealers are hoping is that the acquisition will mean fewer delays in getting boat products. Delays of some product lines had stretched months under Marquis-Larson, they said.
The Marquis-Larson letter to dealers said the sale to Polaris means production will move from Pulaski, Wis., to one of Polaris' current factories. It is unclear if or how many jobs that could affect.
"The moving of materials and assets will begin immediately. It is our expectation to provide support to their transition team and company as long as they need and request it," the letter said.
Dick Peifer, president of Boomerang Marine and Sports in Melrose and Alexandria, Minn., already sells Larson boats as well as Polaris snowmobiles, four-wheelers and Polaris' newly acquired boat line.
"I am pretty enthusiastic about what is going on" with the Larson acquisition, Peifer said Monday while driving a large pontoon from Alexandria to the Minneapolis Convention Center's boat show, which opens Thursday.
Peifer said he has sold Larson boats for a very long time and gone through that company's epic ups and downs for years. The new ownership under Polaris should be good news, he said. In the past Larson had "way more overhead than it made sense to maintain."
Larson in 2017 closed its factory in Little Falls, Minn., and moved 114 jobs to Pulaski, which is 18 miles northwest of Green Bay. Company leaders said at the time that they hoped the closing of the Little Falls factory and move to Wisconsin would be the last big change. The 100-year-old boat builder also announced that it would stop producing its Triumph brand of boats. More than 12 years ago, Larson had 800 employees.
Local dealers said they thought Larson's reorganization plan was solid, but staff shortages might have contributed to any issues Marquis-Larson had.
Larson used to be part of Genmar Holdings Inc., the world's second-largest boat maker with 13 brands and 1,000 dealers. But employment dropped to just 200 by 2009, the same year the parent firm Genmar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with $216 million in debts and $237 million in assets.
In 2010, Larson was sold to Minnesota businessman and Genmar founder Irwin Jacobs and his partner, with the help of state and city loans.