Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the Tampa Bay Tribune outlining the ongoing battle between aftermarket parts retailer Camping World Inc. and Lazydays RV SuperCenter. To view the entire story click here.
The Lazydays RV SuperCenter could soon have a new archrival — inside its own complex in Seffner, Fla.
As reported by the Tampa Bay Tribune, the Camping World retail store that sits within the broader Lazydays campus plans to start selling RVs, trailers and other major equipment in direct competition with Lazydays, after a bitter legal dispute between the two.
“We’ll have everything they sell, but for less,” said Marcus Lemonis, who oversees the Camping World chain of 90 stores, plus the Camping World RV Sales chain that includes Dusty’s RV and the Good Sam RV membership club.
The new operation could be up and running within a few weeks, Lemonis said, adding that he can bring more RVs from other dealerships he controls across Florida. The change adds to the long-running legal drama surrounding Lazydays.
Camping World opened a 20,000-square-foot retail store inside the Lazydays compound in 1995, and it remained the best-performing store in the chain until recently.
Lazydays founder Don Wallace sold the RV dealership in 2006, but Wallace still owns and controls the land underneath as landlord.
Wallace and current owners of the dealership remain in a long-running legal dispute, while the dealership has changed hands several times and filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The Wayzata Investment Partners private equity firm now owns the dealership.
Meanwhile, Camping World officials claim that a longstanding contract requires Lazydays to buy its RV parts and maintenance supplies from Camping World, though Lemonis says Lazydays started buying its supplies elsewhere.
“Don and I always had a good relationship,” Lemonis said. “The nature of the Lazydays business now is dramatically different. I’m not going to mess around with these turkeys anymore.”
Lazydays officials tell a different story.
They claim that a series of arrangements with Camping World prohibited Camping World from selling RVs within 50 miles of Tampa, yet several months ago, companies Lemonis controls rebranded an RV supply store 42 miles away in Bartow called Dusty’s Camper World into a Camping World RV store and started selling new and used RVs.
Lazydays RV SuperCenter CFO Randy Lay said that his company brought legal action against Camping World Inc. around two months ago, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
The statement came in response to a press release issued by Camping World, a retailer of RV aftermarket products, on Friday (June 8) stating that the company had severed its “cooperation agreement” with Seffner, Fla.-based Lazydays, citing breach of contract.
Lay told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that some of the agreements with Camping World date back to the mid-1990s when the companies weren’t direct competitors.
“It made sense to assist with each other’s businesses,” he said.
But two months ago, Lay said a Bartow, Fla., RV dealership changed its name from Dusty’s RV to Camping World RV Sales, and that violated the agreement Camping World referenced in its statement.
Lazydays brought legal action in Tampa, which is ongoing, he said. Lay added that the company has a policy of not conducting litigation via written statements, citing a need to be “circumspect in his comments.”
In the Camping World press release, Marcus Lemonis, CEO and president of Bowling Green, Ky.-based Camping World, said, “I will not stand by and watch an agreement that was entered into in good faith between (former Lazydays owner) Don Wallace and my predecessors, and which has worked beneficially for several years, be shamefully violated.”
In an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Lemonis said Camping World does not own or operate any RV dealerships anywhere in the country. Dusty’s was acquired by a sister company in 2003 along with 60 other dealerships over the years, he wrote.
“The sister company simply licenses the name Camping World RV Sales but the legal entity with the DMV and the State of Florida is not Camping World or any company owned by Camping World,” he said in the email.
Camping World Inc., a leading retailer of RV parts and accessories, announced today (June 8) termination of its cooperation agreement with Seffner, Fla.-based RV dealer Lazydays RV SuperCenter, effective immediately.
According to a press release, Bowling Green, Ky.-based Camping World has officially notified Lazydays of its termination of the cooperation agreement that was signed by local Tampa entrepreneur and philanthropist Don Wallace in 1995. During the tenure of the agreement while Don Wallace owned Lazydays, this partnership “not only benefited both companies financially but also directly led to the creation of significant job placement for the greater Tampa community.”
Since Don Wallace sold the Lazydays dealership in 2004, Camping World maintains, the dealership has operated under two separate business owners. Camping World said that these changes to the company, established in 1976, had a detrimental effect over the years.
Lazydays CEO John Horton, when called late Friday afternoon, was unavailable for comment.
Camping World, a 1,500-employee company operating more than 90 locations, maintains that its Seffner-based parts and accessories store has been a fixture in the Tampa market and, historically, has been the top-selling retail location for the company.
Camping World said that a principal point of the cooperation agreement was that Lazydays was to only purchase parts and accessories from its Seffner location. On several occasions, the Kentucky-based retailer maintains, Camping World has notified Lazydays of the breach of contract.
Wallace and Lazydays are now locked in a suit and counter suit over the fate of the land underneath the Lazydays dealership. Through a company called I-4 Land Holding Limited Co., Wallace still owns the land under the dealership he founded in 1976, one of the nation’s high profile dealerships.
Lazydays RV Super Center has operated an RV dealership in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area since 1976, including 16 years at its existing location in Seffner. Last year, according to a news release, the high-profile retailer elected to exercise an option in its lease to acquire the Seffner property and is currently pursuing its legal rights to close on the purchase.
“The purpose of buying the property is to help secure our future in the Tampa Bay area,” said CEO John Horton. “However, whether we lease or own the property, we will stay here in Seffner. In light of our commitment to this location, we are in the process of making significant capital improvements which will improve the appearance and appeal of our dealership for many years to come. These long-term investments will create an even better experience for our customers in the future.”
The Seffner location, which currently employs 492 people, encompasses 124 acres featuring an approximately 86,000-square-foot indoor showroom along with 221 service bays, 299 campsites and three restaurants. In April of last year, Lazydays finalized the purchase of a former Beaudry RV dealership situated on 82 acres in Tucson, Ariz.
In the release, Horton outlined the advancements and accomplishments logged at the Seffner store during the past several years.
“Our Seffner dealership has enjoyed historic success which continues today,” he said. “Just this past year, we were named the No. 1 dealership in the country for products distributed by numerous RV manufacturers including Tiffin, American Coach, Winnebago and Fleetwood.”
For the past two years Lazydays has been recognized as one of Tampa Bay’s “Top Work Places,” elevated from No. 10 in medium-sized companies in 2010 to No. 2 in large-sized companies in 2011. Lazydays was nominated by its employees, in part, because the company offers workers “many opportunities to become involved in their community.”
Horton reported that Lazydays employees joined together to form the “Lazydays Employee Foundation,” a nonprofit organization created to aid at-risk children in the Tampa Bay area. The foundation has invested over $1 million dollars in local children’s charities in the past few years. This includes the creation of the Lazydays House, part of an emergency foster care facility in Brandon, Fla., that the employees helped build through their donations and continue to support.
Lazydays is close to announcing a new partnership with a local children’s services agency to support the ongoing operation of the Lazydays Center for Youth Development, a homeless youth outreach program in Tampa. Last month, the foundation raised over $100,000 at its second annual golf tournament to benefit children’s charities in the Tampa Bay area.
Horton noted, “Seffner, Fla., is home not only to our Florida employees but to our many customers who visit us to enjoy the Lazydays’ experience. Our roots in this community are deep and we look forward to continuing to serve our customers, and our community, for many years to come.”
Don Wallace, co-founder of Tampa’s Lazydays RV Super Center, has committed $25,000 to the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s current pay-down-the-debt campaign for its Elkhart, Ind.-based RV/MH Hall of Fame.
Wallace’s donation comes only days after Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, headquartered in Lincolnshire, Ill., helped turbo-charge the new fundraising campaign — announced last week – by becoming the first to make a personal $25,000 pledge aimed at helping pay off the Hall’s bank loans.
The goal is to raise $100,000 in voluntary contributions by Aug. 31 to be matched by the Robert “Boots” Ingram family, which has offered a $100,000 challenge grant for the purpose of lowering the Hall’s debt to 1st Source Bank by $200,000.
“Don Wallace was kind enough to call me late Friday afternoon and he wanted to tell me that he saw Marcus Lemonis’ $25,000 and it reminded him that it was time that he stepped up to the plate and matched his $25,000 and that the check was already written,” reports Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer.
“Then he continued to say that he heard a lot of good things that were happening at the Hall of Fame and to keep up the good work and that if there was anything else that he could do to help to feel free to call him any time,” adds Searer, who also serves as chairman of Elkhart-based supplier Ultra-Fab Products Inc.
The campaign’s quick start coincides with a spate of positive publicity the hall’s been receiving lately, including a breaking Associated Press story that’s already been picked up by the regional press and is currently posted on RVBUSINESS.com.
Searer helped AP writer Tom Coyne assemble that story over the past few weeks. “He (Coyne) felt that there was so much interest nationwide because of the fact that Obama was here four years ago when the bottom fell out of everything and, you know, Elkhart had the highest unemployment in the country and now it’s rebounding back and, suddenly, it’s a big story,” said Searer.
Meanwhile, the Hall of Fame’s board is clearly optimistic about prospects for meeting – and perhaps exceeding – the current campaign’s goals. “Absolutely,” said Searer, “we will reach the goal, and I think we’ll reach it long before August. The Ingram challenge – and the subsequent match to the challenge – is a great start at reducing the debt of the Hall of Fame.”
Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., announced that Goshen, Ind.-based builder has entered into a partnership with Lazydays RV Super Center in Tucson, Ariz.
“We are proud to play a part of Lazydays’ migration to the west,” Clark said in a press release. “All of us at Dutchmen are excited for the opportunity to work with Lazydays as it brings great products and exceptional customer service to the Southwest. Both of our companies strive to provide the perfect RV purchase and ownership experience and look forward to growing this market together.”
He added, “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Lazydays and their sales manager, Ken Stumpe, and have the utmost confidence that this Lazydays expansion will be a very positive move for the Tucson, Ariz., RV enthusiast. Dutchmen continues to focus on providing innovative and feature filled products that satisfy the desires of the RVing public.”
Dutchmen RV is a Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary and produces various brands of towable RVs, including Denali, Komfort, Infinity, Aspen Trail, Kodiak, Voltage, Rubicon, Aerolite, Coleman and Dutchmen. The company will be showcasing its lineup Sept. 20-22 as part of the Thor display at the Elkhart County 4th Annual Open House.
Don Wallace’s relationship with the giant RV dealership he founded has reached a new low, according to a report in the Tampa Tribune.
Wallace and Lazydays RV SuperCenter are now locked in a suit and counter suit over the fate of the land underneath the dealership.
Through a company called I-4 Land Holding Limited Co., Wallace still owns the land under the dealership he founded in 1976, the largest single-site dealership in the nation.
After selling off much of his ownership stake in the dealership, Wallace leased the land underneath to Lazydays, which at one point was paying at least $4.2 million per year in rent.
That lease gave the dealership an option to purchase the land if specific conditions are met. Wallace could not be reached for comment.
LDRV Holdings Corp., which operates the Lazydays dealership, tried to exercise that purchase option in May this year for an undisclosed price.
Wallace countered that LDRV was in default on its lease after missing monthly rent payments, thus voiding LDRV’s option to buy the land.
Clouding the entire issue is the question of how the contract was complicated when Lazydays filed bankruptcy in 2009, and whether the successor company was assigned the lease correctly and with Wallace’s permission.
Both parties filed suits in Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit — Wallace on June 1 and LDRV on June 7 — neither asking for money, but both asking the court to clear up the matter and declare which party has what rights.
Wallace is represented partially in the case by Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen, who has handled other matters for Wallace, including an attempted case of extortion against Wallace by Wallace’s extended family members.
Randy Lay, chief financial officer of Lazydays, said their motive for owning the land is purely strategic, not personal.
Big RV dealers like theirs typically use a lot of land, he said, but also make significant investments in showrooms, perks for guests, service bays and even restaurants and campgrounds. “It makes a heck of a lot of sense to own the land,” Lay said.
That’s what the company did in purchasing a large dealership in Tucson this year, Lay added.
While Lazydays just went through the Chapter 11 process, Lay said the current majority owners, Wayzata Investment Partners, extended $10 million to the company for such investments, and the dealership has enough collateral to access more capital for purchases.
Fleetwood RV Inc. recognized its 2009 Top Dealers and Circle of Excellence award recipients this week during the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
Fleetwood’s Top Dealer awards are given to dealers who have retailed the most units in a 12-month period. The Circle of Excellence is awarded to dealers who have achieved superior customer satisfaction with at least 93.5% of their customers in a 12-month period, according to a news release.
“We have the best dealer network in the industry,” said John Draheim, Fleetwood president and COO. “Our dealers are a crucial part of our success, and the Top Dealer and Circle of Excellence awards help us acknowledge their sales and customer service excellence, as well as thank them for their ongoing support.”
Fleetwood’s 2009 Overall Top Dealer award winners are:
- Lazydays RV SuperCenter, Seffner, Fla., Overall Motorhome Top Dealer (single location) and Overall American Coach Top Dealer (single location).
- Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Overall Motorhome Top Dealer (multi-location).
Fleetwood RV also presented 2009 Top Dealer awards to eight dealerships who were the No. 1 motorhome brand retailers.
In addition, over 20 dealers achieved Fleetwood’s 2009 Circle of Excellence Award. Particularly noteworthy were Tom Johnson Camping Center in Marion, N.C., and Farnsworth Camping Center Inc. in Elysburg, Pa., both of which have achieved the Circle of Excellence every year since the award’s inception in 1991.
The owners of about 190 Holiday Rambler diesel pusher motorhomes manufactured by Monaco Coach Corp. — members of the Ramblin’ Pushers chapter of the national Holiday Rambler RV Club — are gathered this week at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind.
“We don’t call it a rally,” said chapter President Dick Reidenbach of Indianapolis. “We call it a maintenance session and we will have almost 100 technical sessions over the course of the week.”
“The mission of our chapter is to help educate members on the operation and repair of Holiday Rambler diesel pushers,” Reidenbach said.
This evening (May 4) roundtable sessions will be conducted among owners of the various Holiday Rambler brands. “One of the greatest sources of information for resolving problems with a motorhome are people who own the same coaches that you do,” Reidenbach said.
All this as Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, awaits finalization of a $52 million deal in bankruptcy court through which most of Monaco’s assets are to be sold to Chicago-area based Navistar International Corp.
Pat Carroll, Monaco Coach Corp. vice president of product development, was in attendance at the Elkhart County rally as was Veurink’s RV Center, Grand Rapid, Mich., the oldest Holiday Rambler dealership in the country.
“Pat Carroll told us that it’s been a long six months, but that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that Monaco is definitely on the uptick,” said Reidenbach, who three weeks ago bought a Holiday Rambler Navigator for cash from Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Seffner, Fla., was pleased with the turnout.
“I felt like Monaco is big enough and that the Navistar thing is down the road far enough so that something good is going to happen,” Reidenbach said.
Although turnout for the gathering is about 10% less than it was last year, Reidenbach said those attending are in good spirits. “Honestly, the mood here is pretty upbeat,” he said.
And he is equally pleased that the club was able to draw nearly 400 people to Elkhart County.
“We are absolutely delighted with the attendance, given the condition of the RV industry,” said the Eli Lilly Co. retiree. “We feel like it’s a big success.”