Dealer Sues Brunswick

June 2006 News

A Florida dealership has filed suit against Brunswick Corp. over the boatbuilder's recent acquisition of Great American Marina in Florida's Pinellas County.


Mark LaPrade, owner of Thunder Marine in St. Petersburg, alleges in his lawsuit that Brunswick had agreed to partner with him on the acquisition, but instead forged an agreement with LaPrade's competitor MarineMax.


MarineMax and Brunswick announced Feb. 14 a joint venture in which Brunswick acquired the 95-slip marina, while MarineMax purchased the large service yard at the same site. Terms were not disclosed.


The suit, filed in Florida District Court in early March, alleges LaPrade learned in February 2005 that Great American Marina would be available for purchase. He said, in the complaint, he was willing and able to pay the asking price of $12 million, but thought a partnership with Brunswick was a better option.


According to court records, it was LaPrade's vision that Thunder Marine would own and operate the service portions of the marina, and would manage the slips for Brunswick. LaPrade alleges he provided Brunswick with information about the marina and his plans, "believing that Brunswick would only use the information and data to partner with Thunder Marine."


Brunswick declined to comment on the case.


"It is our policy not to comment on ongoing litigation, other than to say that we dispute the allegations made in this complaint, and we will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter," the company said in a statement.


LaPrade, in the complaint, says the marina is important to Thunder Marine's business because it is the only service yard large enough to accommodate large yachts, including Thunder Marine customers.


Thunder Marine sells several boat brands, including Brunswick's Bayliner, Maxum and Trophy brands, as well as Mercury engines. The dealership has been owned and operated by the LaPrade family since 1984. The dealership owns a service center that is only suitable for trailerable boats, according to the complaint. Thunder has been servicing its larger yachts at the marina since 1997.


With the acquisition, MarineMax "now controls every major service and maintenance facility for dealers of yachts and vessels on all of Pinellas County's Intracoastal waterways," read the complaint.


The suit does not specify any monetary damages Thunder Marine is seeking.

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