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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 9 months ago

After its acquisition, boat business plans more growth

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In May, Brunswick Corp. acquired Venice-based Freedom Boat Club.

During a recent franchise conference, leaders from Freedom Boat Club and Brunswick Corp. gathered with Freedom staff and franchisees for five days in Sarasota.

In May, Brunswick acquired Venice-based Freedom Boat Club. Brunswick is based in Mettawa, Ill., and its brands include Mercury Marine outboard engines, Boston Whaler and Sea Ray. Freedom has over 200 locations in the U.S., Canada and Europe. After the acquisition, Freedom Boat Club President John Giglio and other members of the leadership team stayed in place.

Giglio tells Coffee Talk the conference helped put employees and franchisees at ease. “It was really a great merge of the companies,” he says. “There was a lot of apprehension, at least initially inside the Freedom Boat Club organization.”

The conference, he says, was really the first time Brunswick management got to meet the Freedom Boat Club network. It was also a chance to review what Freedom had accomplished in the past year, share its plans for the next year and offer tactical sessions on marketing, operations and improving sales.

At the conference, Giglio, a Business Observer 2019 Top Entrepreneur, got a tangible reminder of how much the company has grown. The first Freedom conference he went to had eight people in the room, he says. This year? Some 300 people attended. “It’s been a pretty remarkable expansion from that point,” Giglio says.

Since the acquisition, the biggest change, he says, is that now Freedom, as a division of Brunswick, has unlimited resources to grow the business even more. “We have a lot of really smart people inside the Brunswick organization helping develop strategy and implement strategy,” he says.

The year ahead will see a focus on growing the boat club business and holding off on expanding into RVs. The company had been working on plans for RVs prior to the acquisition. “We decided at this point, there are so many opportunities, to focus on the boat side — all of these other areas of the world we want to be in,” Giglio says. “We have high hopes that 2020 will be a great year for expansion throughout the European area.” 

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