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Coleman May Put Famous Hobie Cat Unit on the Block

September 10, 1987|CHRIS KRAUL | San Diego County Business Editor

SAN DIEGO — Citing disappointing sales in the sailboat industry in general over the past five years, Coleman Co. said Wednesday that it may sell its Oceanside-based Coast Catamaran Corp. unit, manufacturer of world-famous Hobie Cat catamaran sailboats.

For competitive reasons, Coleman declined to disclose Coast's recent sales figures or the asking price for the unit, which it acquired in 1976 for $3 million. Principal shareholder at the time of Coleman's acquisition was Coast founder and recreation products entrepreneur Hobie Alter.

Through a spokesman, the company acknowledged that Coast's sales have been hurt in recent years by the drop in gasoline prices, which have made powerboats a more attractive recreational alternative to sailboats.

Good Years for Sailboats

John Campbell, an analyst with Pemberton Houston Willoughby, a securities firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia, estimated that Coast's sales peaked at about $30 million in 1979, falling in recent years to "less than $20 million."

"Sailboats aren't selling like they used to because fuel prices are no longer a concern to people," Campbell said. "In 1979, you had President (Jimmy) Carter talking about banning recreational powerboats altogether. Those were good years for sailboats, but the shoe is now on the other foot."

As estimated by analysts, Coast's sales represent a small portion of Coleman's revenue, which in fiscal 1986 totaled $501.6 million.

Coleman, predominantly an outdoor and camping equipment manufacturer, is based in Wichita, Kan.

Coast Catamaran, which also manufactures Holder monohull recreational boats, employs 180 at its 200,000-square-foot administrative and manufacturing complex in Oceanside. The company's only other manufacturing facility is an 18,000-square-foot plant in Hyeres, France. The company moved to Oceanside from Irvine in 1979.

Alter, who remains a consultant to Coast, began manufacturing Hobie Cats in 1968 in partnership with San Diego businessman Art Hendrickson. The fiberglass boats, with their speed and stability, were an immediate hit.

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