When you think about it, there are two “Fountains” in the high-performance powerboat world. There is Fountain Powerboats, the Washington, N.C.-based V-bottom manufacturing company. And there is Reggie Fountain, the iconic founder of that company, who announced his resignation last Friday.
Earlier today, I caught up with John Walker, the new president and CEO of Fountain and Reggie Fountain, the former president and CEO, in separate interviews. I spoke with Walker first and asked him if he thought Fountain’s departure would make the company’s sales and marketing efforts significantly more difficult going forward?
“It certainly makes life a little harder,” said Walker. “Obviously, Reggie is the brand. But there is one thing I’d like to clear up: From the talk out there on the message boards, you’d think Reggie was laying up the boats and installing the engines himself, and that’s just not reality. The reality is that this is a team effort, and that 80 percent of the people who work here have been here 15 to 25 years or longer.
“I’ve been building boats myself for 30 years—I worked at the Sea Ray plant in Merit Island (Ga.),” he continued. “I came from the boat building world—I am much more comfortable on a production floor than in an office—but now I am a boat builder who happens to be the president of four boat companies (Baja, Donzi, Fountain and Pro-Line). I have a company to run, people to take care of in that company and customers who want boats. We intend to deliver on all of that.”
Walker said neither he nor his colleagues took any pleasure in Fountain’s decision to resign.
“It’s unfortunate that Reggie chose to leave,” he said. “That is not what we wanted. The man is an icon and he does a lot of things extremely well. We feel we lost something when he left. We were trying to put together the team that we needed to run this business. Reggie was part of that plan. We’d still like to see him come back.”
According to Fountain, the probability of a return to the company he founded more than 30 years ago is low at best.
“Well, I’d consider anything that make sense, but that seems highly unlikely,” he said.
According to Fountain, his resignation had as much to do with differences in businesses philosophy between the owners (Liberty Associates) of the company and him as it did with his unwillingness to sign non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, which were the catalysts for his departure.
“We had a difference of opinion on how to run the business,” said Fountain. “They own it, so I thought the best thing for me to do was move on down the line and do something else.”
“When I did this (resigned), I didn’t have any plans,” he continued. “But since I did I’ve been overwhelmed by the opportunities that have opened up. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support I’ve received.”
Fountain did not rule out starting another boat company.
“It was time for an update anyway,” he said. “You know, if I do start a new boat line it would be all highly updated. But I don’t have anything set yet.
“I don’t think he’d mind me telling you this, but Mike Fiore (founder/owner of Outerlimits Performance Boats) called me to tell me he was sorry about this and that I could come and work with him if I wanted to. That’s really something when someone who was one of your most bitter rivals says something like that. As I said, I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I received.”