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Irvine Partnership Reaches Agreement With Coleman to Buy Hobie Cat Firm

November 25, 1987|CHRIS KRAUL | San Diego County Business Editor

The parent company of the Oceanside-based manufacturer of world-famous Hobie Cat sailboats has signed a letter of intent to sell the firm to an Orange County group.

The agreement with Evergreen Partners of Irvine to buy Coast Catamaran Corp. apparently dashes the hopes of Coast employees, who had proposed buying the company themselves. But Evergreen said Tuesday there is no plan to move the firm elsewhere.

Coast's parent firm, the Coleman Co. of Wichita, did not say how much Evergreen, an investment banking partnership, has agreed to pay for the company. Led by George Pennington of Newport Beach, Evergreen will take over by the end of the year if the deal goes through, Coast General Manager Doug Campbell said Tuesday.

Pennington would not rule out possible layoffs. "The company is not running as efficiently as it has in the past," he said. Describing Evergreen as a private partnership, Pennington declined to give details of his other business activities.

Coast employs 140 workers at its 30-acre manufacturing plant and headquarters, where it produces a line of fiberglass catamarans known to sailing enthusiasts the world over. The company also operates a manufacturing plant in southern France.

The purchase bid by Coast employees was one of 47 Coleman received after announcing in July that the company was on the block. Explaining its decision to sell, Coleman said Hobie had been hurt in recent years by the industrywide decline in sales. Coast's sales peaked in 1981 at more than $31 million, but since have dipped to about $20 million.

Campbell, who headed the employee group, would not disclose the dollar value of that bid.

Oceanside had aided the employees last month by authorizing up to $20,000 in city funds being spent for a feasibility study on the purchase. City officials justified the grant by saying it might help keep jobs and the well-known Hobie Cat name in Oceanside. City spokeswoman Janet Martin said late Tuesday she didn't know how much of the $20,000 had been spent.

Campbell said that he and other employees were disappointed by losing out to Evergreen but that they knew their chances of buying Coast were slim.

"I knew we had tough competition and that there was no more than a 20% to 30% chance to get it," Campbell said. Asked whether he planned to remain with the company after the change in ownership, Campbell replied: "That depends on whether Evergreen wants me and under what conditions."

Co-founded in 1968 by entrepreneur Hobie Alter, Coast was acquired by Coleman in 1976 for $3.2 million. The company's boats range in length from 14 to 21 feet and in price from $3,000 to $8,000.

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