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story.lead_photo.caption “The national news make it sound like the sky is falling, but in the fishing world, things are going pretty well,” said Forrest Wood, founder of Ranger boats.

Production of Ranger boats and other brands manufactured by Flippin, Ark.-based Fishing Holdings LLC will continue in the Marion County town after the company is acquired by Bass Pro Group of Springfield, Mo., company President Randy Hopper said Friday.

Bass Pro announced Thursday it was acquiring Fishing Holdings from global investment firm Platinum Equity. Platinum bought the boat company nearly five years ago during the low point of the nation's financial meltdown. Since then, Hopper said, Fishing Holdings has been working toward stabilizing the company, making it more financially viable and expanding its operations.

"We were reaching the individual goals that we had set when we hooked up with the private equity firm, and so the timing seemed to be right," Hopper said of the sale. "So we started marketing the company a few months ago."

Some 900 people work at the 550,000-square-foot Flippin factory and are expected to make some 7,500 boats this year. The company, founded by noted fisherman and conservationist Forrest Wood, makes fiberglass and aluminum fishing boats, including the Ranger, Stratos and Triton boat brands.

Together, the two companies will work together to support and promote bass fishing across the country, Wood said.

"The national news make it sound like the sky is falling, but in the fishing world, things are going pretty well," he said. "People buy boats because they want them. And there's a lot of people who can buy what they want."

Platinum Equity bought Fishing Holdings with the intention of selling it, Hopper said. He would not disclose the terms of the transaction or the company's annual revenue.

Bass Pro Director of Communications Tammy Sapp said the deal is expected to close early next year, pending regulatory approval and the usual closing conditions.

"There are no plans in place for how we'd move forward," she said. Fishing Holdings will continue to operate individually on its current site under existing management, Sapp added.

Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Wood have been fishing buddies and competed together in the first National BASS Tournaments about 45 years ago. Hopper is married to one of Forrest and Nina Wood's daughters. A grandson, Keith Daffron, also helps run the company, as does Wood's brother, Mickey Wood.

Hopper said the company "talked to lots of different suitors," including Morris.

"[Morris] emerged as one that we felt would really fit well within our organization, both culturewise and commitment to outdoors and fishing," Hopper said. "Over time, he's proven he has staying power and is a very big contributor to fishing and conservation."

Bass Pro's headquarters is located just two hours from the Flippin boat factory.

Business on 12/13/2014

Print Headline: Boat factory to stay in Flippin after deal


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