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jeffbare
03-08-2012, 12:55 PM
MasterCraft CEO plans to retire this summer

Posted on 08 March 2012

John Dorton, president and CEO of MasterCraft and Hydra-Sports, is retiring this summer, he told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

“It’s been over 15 great years there, and now seemed like as good a time as any to leave. We’re No.1 in market share and the company’s profitable. We have some great products coming out. We’ve got a pretty healthy dealer network,” he said. “It’s always going to be tough. I love that company. I’ve wanted to work there since college and finally got my chance to do it. It’s been a great ride.”

Dorton, 50, said he will stay on through the transition, and likely stay on as an adviser to the board of directors for two years. He also serves on other companies’ boards.

In retirement, he said he’ll take time to enjoy life. Dorton said he and his wife have an interest in a ranch in Colorado, and “we’ll certainly always have a MasterCraft at the dock.”

“It will be nice to have a couple of years to do some of the things that we have at our disposal,” he said.

Asked what he’d miss most, Dorton said the people he’s worked with and met throughout his time at the company.

“I had a real close relationship with the manufacturing team out in the plant and with the dealers and with a lot of customers and professional skiers and wakeboarders,” he said. “I just got fully ingrained in the business. I would get out and work side by side in a lot of the manufacturing pods, and I would get out with the wakeboarders and skiers and evaluate boats, and then I would go to boat shows and events nearly every weekend.

“They’re the ones that kept me going in hard times and kept me smiling in good times,” Dorton added.

The accomplishment he is most proud of is the strategic decision to focus on the core high-end watersports enthusiast at a time when others companies were trying to appeal to a mass audience. The philosophy helped the company maintain and grow market share. Profitability is up significantly as a percentage from last year, and retail sales are up, he said.

Dorton said that during the recession he never lost sight of the importance of bringing employees back to work and getting the factory humming again. During the dark times, he would park in the back of the plant and walk through the empty parking lot to remind himself of this.

Today, there are 450 people working at the Vonore, Tenn., facility, he said.

Dorton said he’s not sure whether he will get back into the boating industry in the future, but he’s certainly not closing the door on that possibility. He told National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich that he’s happy to serve in any way that’s useful, willing to work for “airplane tickets and Joe’s stone crabs.”

“I will be a lifelong supporter of the marine industry,” he said, adding that his son is set to begin working at MasterCraft later this spring. “It’s in our blood.”

Dorton said he has wanted to work for the company since he graduated from the University of Tennessee, and it took 13 years to get an answer to his resume and join the company as marketing director.

“I never took my eye off of MasterCraft,” he said. “I really feel good about where we stand. I think in the next six months the business is going to really heal greater even yet. If there’s any time to do it in the next near future, this is it. It feels like everything’s healed, the company’s profitable.”

— Beth Rosenberg

east tx skier
03-08-2012, 01:42 PM
Good luck, Mr. Dorton.

Duane D
03-08-2012, 02:05 PM
Thank you, Sir. You have served us all well. Godspeed.

mikeg205
03-08-2012, 02:11 PM
Good Luck and thanks for taking care of MC and caring about the employees during the dark times... a sign of a good man.

93Prostar190
03-08-2012, 02:44 PM
I echo my thanks ... and most importantly, I wish you a great retirement!

jdl xstar
03-08-2012, 03:11 PM
50 is very young to be retiring. Especially from a company and industry he loves so much. Any chance he was asked to retire? As outsiders we wouldn't know if there are any issues behind the scenes, but there is a chance of something going on and perhaps they are looking for new leadership.

CumberlandXstar
03-08-2012, 03:54 PM
He was always a really nice guy and approachable. Not to many guys in his position really take the time to hang out with the customers.

His son is graduating college so I think he just wants to relax now.

Kyle's_prostar205
03-08-2012, 04:55 PM
Good luck Mr. Dorton. Would love to meet him first hand if I got the chance since I'm from Colorado. I wonder where his ranch is that he mentioned in the article??

east tx skier
03-08-2012, 09:35 PM
So who's taking over from him. I only had a moment to glance at the article, but I didn't see another name.

BMDWillyZ
03-08-2012, 09:53 PM
I'll take the job. I've always wanted to build boats.

Age Fighter
03-08-2012, 10:02 PM
50 is very young to be retiring. Especially from a company and industry he loves so much. Any chance he was asked to retire? As outsiders we wouldn't know if there are any issues behind the scenes, but there is a chance of something going on and perhaps they are looking for new leadership.

Same thing crossed my mind, though I have no inside info at all.

mikeg205
03-08-2012, 10:37 PM
50 is very young to be retiring. Especially from a company and industry he loves so much. Any chance he was asked to retire? As outsiders we wouldn't know if there are any issues behind the scenes, but there is a chance of something going on and perhaps they are looking for new leadership.

I wanted to think about this a bit before I replied, and this is plausible however, we have all benefited from the leadership at Mastercraft. I could sell my '95 for more than I paid 2 years ago.

If you track back how Ilmor got involved and some of the financial issues who knows what was planned. What the notice is missing is the succession plan. That concerns me more than a CEO leaving. I guess we'll find out as time passes what the plan is. It will be an interesting year, hopefully the new CEO will continue the MC philosophy of producing the best tow boats in the industry.

If he planned this - good for him, if he didn't good for him for being able to do what he wants to do or at least expound on what he wants to do...

TT197
03-08-2012, 10:58 PM
Kyle his ranch and or house is in Steamboat Springs. He skis at Bald Eagle Lake where you and I have both been for tournaments. That lake will have a new 2012 Prostar 197 to ski behind. I'm sadden to John leave I have know and worked with John since he came to Mastercraft. He did great things for the company and the product we now have.

epnault
03-09-2012, 05:01 AM
If you look at the average time a CEO spends with one company you will find that it is close to 10 years. In public companies, this is usually the BOD target.

trickskier
03-09-2012, 08:09 AM
John - Best of luck and congratulations!!! You've done a GREAT job, your vision and dedication has made MasterCraft number 1 in the industry! It's been a pleasure knowing you! GO GATORS - Sorry had to get one more in!!!
:D
Rick

2RLAKE
03-09-2012, 09:06 AM
I think this is positive for the company ... Not sure how well he listened to owners ...

willyt
03-09-2012, 09:47 AM
Maybe there's no connection, maybe there is, but his son's black parks star is for sale.

Don't know the guy personally so I can't comment, but wonder if they would consider hiring someone from marketing/product analytics who works in FSI currently...

Footin
03-09-2012, 07:40 PM
I was carrying on a conversation with at guy at a Mastercraft booth at a boat show for 10 to 15 minutes about boating and skiing when at the end, before I left, I introduced myself and he said...."nice to meet you, my name is John Dorton"

Jerseydave
03-09-2012, 08:19 PM
I met John twice, once in AC at the boat show and once at the NYC boat show.
He seems like a great guy, very approachable and generally cares about his company and its customers. Sorry to see him leave, he did help make Mastercraft a huge contender by innovating rather than imitating. He took chances with multi-use center consoles, twin inboard powered 28 footers, and luxury cruisers. The dealer network has appeared to improve by meeting stricter standards rather than dealers trying to run their businesses out of pole barns and rented warehouse spaces. I think MC is a much better company today.

Best of luck in your retirement John!

(PS, I hope he signed a no-compete agreement!) :D