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Marine Max now selling Bertrams

Bertram Yacht is on the comeback trail, and Norberto Ferretti believes the pieces are in place for the builder to return to its former glory now that Marine Max — the country’s largest chain of boat dealerships — is selling Bertrams and seven other Ferretti Group yacht lines.

Ferretti, chairman and president of Italy’s Ferretti Group, Bertram’s owner, says his group has helped restore Bertram’s solid reputation as a sportfishing and convertible yacht builder by digging into its own deep pockets and boatbuilding experience. Ferretti Group builds pleasure craft 21 to 200 feet long at 15 factories, and employs 1,700 workers. Chairman Ferretti said the Italian company has invested heavily in the Miami builder, in both money, and design and engineering talent. “We have put a lot of effort into this,” he says.

Bertram has introduced six models in six years — a 39-, 45-, 51-, 57-, 63- and 67-footer. The sportfisher builder also has returned to the tournament trail, campaigning a 39-, 51- and 63-foot Moppie — factory demo boats — on the prestigious World Billfish Series tour.

A strong dealership network was the logical next step in moving Bertram forward. “For the future, it is the most important thing,” Ferretti said in an interview at last fall’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. “Service is the future.”

Clearwater, Fla.-based Marine Max owns 66 dealerships in 15 states, and touts its lineup of new boats for sale as “premium” brands: Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Hatteras and Meridian. Now it can add to those Ferretti’s family of boats: Bertram, Ferretti Yachts, Pershing, Riva, Apreamare, Mochi Craft, Custom Line and CRN. Marine Max is now the exclusive North American and Caribbean dealer for all of Ferretti’s imported lines, and it is the U.S. dealer for Bertram, excluding the Florida peninsula and parts of New England.

William H. McGill, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Marine Max, told his investors the Ferretti boats would not “cannibalize” the dealership’s existing lines. “We believe the brands we are adding offer a great migration for our existing customer base or fill a void in our product offering,” he told investors.

The marriage appears to be working for Marine Max. The company reported record revenues and earnings for first quarter 2004. The company attributed its success in part to what it calls the most diverse product mix in the industry, as well as improved consumer confidence and more big-boat sales.

Bertram lost its top-notch dealer network to Viking and Hatteras during its decline in the ’90s as it changed hands several times, Ferretti says. It is vital for a builder to have dealers that owners can trust to service their boats and serve their needs, he says.

“We made a search of service in America,” Ferretti says. “The result was Marine Max for service of the client.”