Premier Marine Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Premier Marine Inc., an independent pontoon manufacturer based in Wyoming, Minnesota, filed for bankruptcy protection on June 19, 2017 with the United States Bankruptcy Court – District of Minnesota (case 17-32006).

The filing was signed by Premier’s President, Lori J. Melbostad, who was appointed to the role back in 2014.

Although pontoons are counted among one of the stronger selling boat categories within our industry, several manufacturers who traditionally only built V-bottom boats have begun offering pontoon models as well, including Larson, Cobalt’s Marker One brand, Ranger’s Reata brand and Campion’s Biltmore series.

Canadian Premier dealers were notified prior to the announcement. They are now waiting to see what will happen to the brand they’ve promoted in their respective regions, whether it’s restructured, or dissolved and its assets liquidated.

Data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) shows that the number of new boat sales have dropped over the past several years, while the cost of individual sales has risen. In 2016, 37,349 new and 63,505 used registered boats were sold in Canada, making brand new boat purchases account for 37 percent of boat sales that year. That percentage has steadily decreased over the past several years.  In 2011, new boat purchases represented 45 percent of boat sales with 45,749 new and 56,469 used vessels sold that year; in 2012, 45,971 new and 64,197 used (42 percent new); in 2013, 44,851 new and 62,489 used (42 percent new); in 2014, 39,573 new and 59,778 (40 percent new); in 2015, 37,349 new and 63,505 used (37 percent new). The gradual dip has some in the industry concerned, including Boating Ontario Association, which pointed to the recent pattern at its spring regional meetings as an area of concern for its dealer members.

Boating Ontario shares US numbers showing a comparison between new and used boat sales over a 15-year period.
Boating Ontario shares US numbers showing a comparison between new and used boat sales over a 15-year period.

It’s believed Premier’s acquisition and consolidation of fellow pontoon brands over the past few years contributed to its financial struggles. Premier realigned its manufacturing facilities in the spring of 2015, transferring the production of its Weeres and Palm Beach pontoon boat brands (acquired in 2011) from New Ulm, Minnesota to its headquarters in Wyoming, where it built the Premier brand. The move was made to improve efficiency and profitability, but came at the cost of 40 jobs.

Premier Marine sold pontoons through nearly 200 boat dealers, just over 20 of which were located in Canada. Known for its luxurious line of boats, the company has been owned and operated by the Menne family since its founding in 1992. Premier is one of six boat builders in Minnesota, the other include Crestliner, Lund, Larson, Gekko and Alumacraft.