After news broke early yesterday that Winnebago Industries, Inc., had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Barletta Pontoon Boats, I was curious and began looking to get more details. Fortunately, I was able to speak with Barletta Founder and President Bill Fenech and he had a hard time hiding his excitement, not that he was trying to, as the news was quickly spreading throughout the industry.
Anyone who has spent any time around Fenech understands and can appreciate his passion as well as overall positive enthusiasm he has for life. So, it came as no surprise he was excited to be sharing the good news and had a positive outlook for what comes next for Barletta.
After a tough year dealing with the same supply issues all manufacturers are dealing with, Fenech felt the time was right to partner with someone who could help secure the future of Barletta.
“Working in “start-up” mode is second nature to me,” said Fenech. “I can build a foundation and frame a house, but I’m not sure that I would be as strong with the trim work if that makes sense. This is where Winnebago comes in. Having a partner like Winnebago and the resources they have at their fingertips can help secure purchasing and help keep up with the supply demand.”
Barletta was purchased for $255 million plus shares and other incentives that could lead to an additional $50 million over the next two years. Fenech was clear that he didn’t do this for the money and did it more because he loves the company and had no plans of stepping down as the president. In fact, the entire Barletta team will remain at Barletta – business as usual, in their terms.
“I didn’t shop the company, which is what you would do if it was just about getting the most money,” added Fenech. “I wanted a partner and I wanted it to be the right partner.”
Barletta was founded in 2017 with a focus on high-quality, innovative products, unrivaled service and strong dealer relationships, which has allowed the company to grow rapidly in the pontoon boat segment and establish a strong, differentiated position in the market. Fenech is the mastermind behind the privately-owned company but understands it is the entire Barletta team that led to the current network of 125 dealer locations across the U.S. and Canada and thousands of satisfied customers. To reward those hard-working men and women at Barletta, that includes everyone from the executive team to those on the assembly line, each employee will receive a minimum $5,000 bonus following the closing later this fall.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” explained Fenech, when discussing why he felt his employees needed to be rewarded as well.
The company recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Bristol, Ind., to add production capacity and scale to better meet the demands of its continued growth and Fenech doesn’t expect anything to change from a dealer or customer perspective going forward. Barletta is known for outstanding customer service and that’s going to continue to be the focus for this pontoon manufacturer.