Saturday, January 13, 2007
THE PASSING OF A TRUE RV PIONEER
Friday, January 12, 2007
John Crean, the multi-millionaire Orange County, Calif., businessman known as much for his extraordinary philanthropy and his rags-to-riches story as he was for the signature Fleetwood recreational vehicles and mobile homes he designed and manufactured, died Thursday (Jan. 11).
The Orange County Register reported that Crean, who was 81, had been ill with heart disease and died quietly at his Santa Ana Heights home, better known as the Village Crean, about 1 p.m.
He built his fortune on the belief that success comes when you put customers and employees first. He and his wife, Donna, traveled around the country asking RV owners what they liked – and disliked - about their roving homes. He then incorporated their wishes and ideas into his new models.
At the same time, he was among the first to offer profit-sharing programs, reasoning that if workers had an interest in the company, they would strive to ensure its success.
When he founded Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. in Riverside in 1950, he vowed to stay out of debt and keep his overhead as low as he could.
He stayed true to those goals and by 1998, the year Crean retired, Fleetwood, a $3 billion-a-year Fortune 500 company, was operating 18 recreational vehicle and 38 manufactured housing plants in 17 states and Canada. That year the company sold 69,494 RVs, 65,544 manufactured homes and employed 19,000 workers.
While he built his business on a foundation of fairness, customer satisfaction and sound financial management, he and Donna built their lives around the words of a Lutheran minister who urged his congregation to tithe 10%, saying that if you give without expecting anything in return, you'll get a tenfold return in blessings on your investment.
Crean said he thought those were "damn good odds."
From then on, he and Donna started giving away part of whatever they made, starting with 10% and eventually donating half of their annual earnings to charity. Many of their donations were made anonymously and Crean deftly sidestepped queries about how much money they gave away.
One of the couple's most valuable donations was the use of their 18,000-square-foot mansion for fund-raising events.
Crean was born in 1925 in Bowdon, N.D., on the Fourth of July, which, he says in his self-published autobiography, "The Wheel and I," "can give you a pretty warped idea of your own importance when you're a kid."
He was 4 when his family moved west and settled in Compton, Calif.
His father was in poor health and the family barely scraped by financially. Crean started early keeping his eye out for ways to make a few dollars.
After serving in both the Navy and Merchant Marine during World War II, he lived with his mother in Compton and went to college briefly.
But he dropped out after reading an essay in which publisher William Allen White said he'd done a lot better by being out in the working world.
So, Crean followed his brother Leonard, known as "Speed," into the trailer business.
Good with his hands and full of ideas for what would make a marketable trailer, Crean kept coming up with better ways to do things.
After working for a Venetian blind salesman, Crean designed blinds for use in trailers and started Coach Specialites Manufacturing Co., with his wife, Donna, stringing the blinds by hand.
Six months later, in 1951, he founded Fleetwood Enterprises. He sketched the familiar kangaroo found on the back of his popular Fleetwood RV, the Bounder, himself on a napkin at Denny's, one of his favorite breakfast spots.
The Fleetwood brand brought with it quality construction, a quiet, smooth ride and lots of new, state-of-the-art features for the time, such as sub-floor water tanks that wouldn't freeze in cold weather and a storage basement so owners didn't have strap their luggage to the roof.
Crean was a man with big ideas, a bigger heart, a great sense of humor and a zest and appreciation for life.
He raced sports cars and dune buggies, collected cars and built and flew model airplanes.
He also entertained lavishly at his four-acre estate and aboard his $7 million 125-foot luxury yacht, the Donna C.
He had to buy a second home on Lido Isle largely for the oversized boat slip.
"Well," he explained somewhat sheepishly. "You have to park (the boat) somewhere."
In 2001, the then 75-year-old Crean re-entered the RV manufacturing arena, teaming with his son, Johnnie Crean, who had founded Alfa Leisure Inc. The company developed the Alfa See Ya diesel pusher, a mid-priced coach that emulated the Fleetwood Bounder.
Crean also loved to cook, although the results were dubious, according to his longtime friend Barbara Venezia. Still, he and Venezia co-hosted, from 1992 to 1998, a popular cable-TV cooking show, "At Home on the Range," filmed in his 5,000-square-foot garage on a set he made himself.
The show was as much comedic banter and culinary mishaps, from fires to dropped omelets, as it was recipes. And most of his concoctions came from a Bisquick or other convenience-food box or can.
Together they published a cookbook, "At Home on the Range – The Cookbook for the Deranged."
After selling his stake in Fleetwood and retiring in 1998, he built a 130-home tract, Crean Acres, in Hemet, with affordable houses designed for people 55 and older, with wheelchair-accessible doorways and, of course, an RV parking space.
John Crean ended his career as he began it – thinking of his customers first.
Services will include private family internment at Crystal Cathedral Gardens. Plans for a public memorial service at the Crystal Cathedral are pending.
LEE SELLS ALL HIS SHARES OF NATIONAL RV
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Bob Lee has severed his final ties to the company he helped found.
Lee confirmed to RV Business late Wednesday (Jan. 10) that he sold his 577,906 shares of National RV Holdings Inc. stock on Friday, Jan. 5, for an average price of $3.50 per share.
“I don’t know who bought it. I put it on the market and let it go,” he said.
Lee said he sold his National RV stock because “I didn’t think it (the company) would go anywhere...I won’t have to worry about it on a day-to-day basis anymore,” he said.
National RV Holdings posted losses in 17 of the last 21 quarters and has negotiated a sale of its real estate at the company’s headquarters in Perris, Calif., to generate much needed cash. National RV Holdings is parent to National RV Inc., with operations in Perris, and Junction City, Ore.-based Country Coach Inc., the company Lee founded.
Rumors of Lee’s stock sale surfaced early this week but were not confirmed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as of Wednesday afternoon.
National RV executives had heard the rumor, too, but there were no conversations with Lee and they were in the dark as to its veracity. They were aware that nearly 600,000 shares traded hands on Friday, however, and surmised that it might be Lee’s holdings. Average daily trading of the company’s stock is well below 30,000 shares.
Until receiving official notification, the company deferred any formal comment.
“Until we can confirm it, we would have no response. It is what it is, a rumor,” said Tom Martini, CFO of National RV Holdings.
Although Lee is no longer on the National RV Holdings board, he was still the fifth-largest shareholder with 5.6% of all the outstanding shares
There was speculation that Los Angeles investment banker Bryant R. Riley, who owns or controls 1,199,383 shares or 11.6% of National RV Holdings' outstanding shares as of Nov. 30, was the buyer of Lee’s stock.
“That’s possible,” Lee said, but he added that he had not talked with Riley about the sale. A call to Bryant’s office in Los Angeles was not returned.
Lee’s stock sale ends a long and sometimes combative relationship with National RV Holdings. In November 2005, Lee and Riley launched an unsuccessful bid to buy the company. In August, Lee resigned from the board, saying the company’s leaders had refused to deal with “the ongoing crisis” that “threatens the very future of this company,” and that it was time for CEO Brad Albrechtsen to resign.
Lee founded Country Camper in 1973 with two employees out of a 2,000-square-foot building in Junction City. By the early 1990s, the company had become a national player in the luxury motor coach market.
In 1996, Lee sold Country Coach to National RV Holdings for $9 million in stock and the assumption of $10.1 million in Country Coach debt. Lee stayed on as CEO after the sale. He retired in 2000, but returned in 2002 to turn around the Country Coach division. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 and continued as a paid consultant until May 2005.
Lee acquired additional shares of the company as a result of grants of stock options received over the course of his service as an executive, employee and consultant of the company.
He served on the board of National RV Holdings from 1998 until leaving in last August.
In November, Lee revealed that he had agreed to serve as chairman of Western Recreational Vehicles (WRV), maker of high-end motorhomes and trailers based in Yakima, Wash., after Monomoy Capital Partners LP announced it agreed to acquire the company.
Lee said Wednesday he has been busy getting WRV up and running and shipping product. The company makes Class A motorhomes under the Alpine Coach brand, and Alpenlite fifth-wheels and truck campers.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Make / Models : Model/Build Years:
WW / CL 2001-2005
WW / FB 2001-2005
WW / FBD 2001-2004
WW / FK 2001-2005
WW / FS 2001-2005
WW / FSC 2004-2005
WW / FT 2001-2005
WW / LE 2001-2005
WW / SE 2001-2003
WW / SL 2001-2005
WW / SLC 2001-2005
WW / SP 2001-2003
WW / SX 2004-2005
Manufacturer : WEEKEND WARRIOR TRAILERS INC.
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number : 05V444000 Mfg's Report Date : SEP 21, 2005
Component: EXTERIOR LIGHTING
Potential Number Of Units Affected : 13447
CERTAIN RECREATIONAL TRAILERS DO NOT CONFORM TO THE LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS OF FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD NO. 108, 'LAMPS, REFLECTIVE DEVICES, AND ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT.' AMBER INTERMEDIATE SIDE MARKER LAMPS AND REFLEX REFLECTORS IN VEHICLES LONGER THAN 30' IN OVERALL LENGTH WERE MISSING. ALSO THE ABSENCE OF THE REAR IDENTIFICATION LAMPS IN VEHICLES OVER 80" IN OVERALL WIDTH.
THE MANUFACTURER IS PETITIONING NHTSA FOR A DETERMINATION THAT THIS MATTER IS INCONSEQUENTIAL WITH RESPECT TO MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY. THE MANUFACTURER IS NOT OBLIGATED TO CONDUCT AN OWNER NOTIFICATION AND REMEDY CAMPAIGN UNTIL NHTSA HAS RESOLVED THAT THE MATTER IS CONSEQUENTIAL.
Monday, January 08, 2007
DREW INDUSTRIES ACQUIRES TWO OTHER COMPANIES
Monday, January 8, 2007
Drew Industries Inc. today (Jan. 8) announced its wholly-owned subsidiary Lippert Components Inc. acquired two affiliated companies, Trailair Inc. and Equa-Flex Inc., which manufacture several patented products, including suspension systems used primarily for towable recreational vehicles.
The two acquired companies reported combined sales in excess of $3 million, according to White Plains, N.Y.-based Drew.
The purchase price was $5.5 million, of which $3.3 million was paid at closing and the balance will be paid over the next five years. Drew said the price could increase to a maximum of $8.1 million if Lippert achieves certain sales targets during that five-year period.
"Trailair and Equa-Flex recently introduced several new products, and Lippert Components is already reporting a substantial number of orders for these new products," said Jason Lippert, president and CEO of Goshen, Ind.-based Lippert Components. "These products were very favorably accepted by RV manufacturers when we displayed the products at the Louisville RV industry trade show in late November 2006."
Drew reported that some of Trailair's and Equa-Flex's management personnel will be employed by Lippert, and all manufacturing operations for the acquired products will be integrated into Lippert's existing factories.
Lippert will not lease or acquire any facilities in connection with these acquisitions.