Minneapolis-based Your Boat Club (YBC) accepted a multimillion-dollar investment from Groupe Beneteau, a French boat manufacturer, for a 40% stake in YBC, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. YBC was launched in 2021 and is the largest privately-owned boat club in the world, offering more than 300 fishing boats and ski boats at 24 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. The article reports that the deal may be a precursor to an acquisition of YBC, but for now it is designed to accelerate YBC’s growth.
Group Beneteau, which makes and sells myriad brands, paid nearly $50 million for three acquisitions, including YBC, according to a recent financial disclosure. The sale price implies a value of YBC of less than $50 million. The investment will allow YBC to expand into growth markets throughout the United States, including along the East Coast, to the New York Finger Lakes region and the east and west coasts of Florida.
Boat dealers in the past have viewed clubs and rentals as competition. However, the club model, albeit not cheap, consumes boats that otherwise might not move when the only alternative is spending up to $100,000 or more for luxury motorboats and pontoons.
“Group Beneteau wants to engage in this [club trend] because as customers change, the kids grow up and life patterns change, it’s about different offerings,” says YBC co-owner Luke Kujawa. “Many boat dealers in the past have been anti-clubs. But any way we can attract families to boating, we all win.”
The boat-club-and-rental business is growing faster than the overall marine market. YBC provided 35,000 boat trips in 2020. Kujawa estimates that in 2021 it will be up to 40,000. YBC is approaching 2,000 memberships, and each membership permits up to four drivers. Memberships start at about $2,000 a year, and the average membership for unlimited boating is around $5,000 a year for sizable boats and luxury pontoons.
Kujawa says YBC is approaching $20 million in revenue this year. He said Group Beneteau will expand YBC’s boat offerings, including electric-powered boats that are growing in popularity.