Egg Harbor Yachts will buy the Silverton and Ovation boat businesses and hire at least some workers who were laid off when Silverton Marine Corp. closed its Millville factory in February.
Dr. Ira Trocki, owner of Egg Harbor Yachts, said the deal with Silverton is expected to be finalized later this week. He declined to disclose specific terms of the deal.
Silverton and its parent company, Morgan Industries Corp., based in St. Augustine, Fla., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, in the latest blow to the luxury boat industry in the wake of the recession.
The purchase represents a bit of good news in a yacht-making industry that has seen severe cutbacks, with layoffs at most New Jersey manufacturing plants, including Egg Harbor Yachts’ production factory in Egg Harbor City.
Under the proposal, Egg Harbor Yachts will take over the Silverton and Ovation lines of yachts, with production resuming at the Egg Harbor City facility this summer.
“I’m trying to bring jobs to South Jersey. I’m trying to revitalize the boat industry and keep great names alive,” Trocki said.
The Silverton and Ovation lines are cruising-style luxury yachts. Trocki said they would complement Egg Harbor Yachts’ luxury sport-fishing fleet.
He discussed the purchase Friday by phone from aboard one of his company’s yachts in Somers Point, where he was enjoying martinis in the lifestyle his company promotes to its customers.
Egg Harbor Yachts submitted a competitive bid for the businesses through Silverton’s bankruptcy trustee that included the brands, design specifications and tooling that will be used to manufacture the two lines in Egg Harbor City.
The deal does not include Silverton’s Millville factory or corporate offices on Riverside Drive.
“It was offered, but it didn’t fit my needs,” Trocki said. “At Egg Harbor, we just put in a giant new addition a few years back that is state of the art. The Silverton factory also had a large office complex attached. We need people to be building the boats. We don’t need a giant office complex.”
Trocki, a businessman and plastic surgeon with a practice in Northfield, said Silverton and its bankruptcy trustee were intent on structuring the deal to benefit at least some of the employees who lost their jobs in the past year.
“What we’re really buying is the tradition of Silverton and the many excellent workers they’ve had for years. We’ll provide an excellent work force with a superior product,” he said.
Cumberland County Freeholder Samuel Fiocchi said losing more manufacturing jobs with Silverton’s bankruptcy and closing was discouraging in a county with New Jersey’s highest unemployment rate — 13 percent as of May, compared with a state rate of 9.2 percent and national rate of 8.2 percent. Ideally, he said, those jobs would remain in Cumberland County.
But he was pleased to hear Egg Harbor Yachts express interest in hiring some of his county’s workers.
“It just makes sense. They have the expertise,” he said. “With our unemployment rate, we need to get as many people hired as we can. I guess it’s not a total loss.”
Silverton is an international brand. Its parent company sold Silverton boats at 90 dealerships in the United States and 80 dealerships around the world until the global recession curtailed investment in high-end watercraft.
The labor-market firm Dun & Bradstreet Inc. said Silverton had 370 employees in 2010 and 300 in 2011 with estimated annual sales of nearly $24 million. In 2009, Silverton told The Press of Atlantic City that it employed 250 people.
Trocki said it is too early to say how many former Silverton employees might be offered new jobs. He said Egg Harbor Yachts, too, has had to make cutbacks following the recession.
“No question. We had 200 employees in 2008, but we’ve cut down considerably. But many of those employees will be available for production once the market improves,” he said. “The industry has been decimated by this recession.”
Trocki said much of the value of any manufacturing company is its skilled labor.
“These are irreplaceable workers, people who have worked there 25 or 30 years,” he said. “I’m very proud and honored they’ll be with us.”
As recently as 2010, Silverton and its sister companies, Mainship Corp. and Luhrs Corp., both of St. Augustine, cornered 5 percent of the nation’s market for large fiberglass powerboats with inboard motors, according to federal bankruptcy court records.
Egg Harbor Yachts is known for its Buddy Davis, Topaz and Predator lines.
Trocki said he hopes to unveil the first new Silverton yacht at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on Oct. 25 and the Atlantic City Boat Show in February.
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