The following is a blog from RVing Examiner’s Julian Gothard offering commentary on Camping World President and CEO Marcus Lemonis’ decision to pull sponsorship from reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” following published photos of host Donald Trump’s sons posing with African game they had shot. To read the entire story click here. RVBUSINESS.com has also received several comments since posting a related story on March 15. To view that article and review comments click here.
Hunters are threatening to boycott Camping World’s 75 nationwide locations after company Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis ruled out future sponsorship of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice TV show. Lemonis who heads up the Good Sam Club (a season 12 sponsor of Celebrity Apprentice) as well as Camping World (a season 11 sponsor) was displeased by photos which pictured brothers Eric and Donald Trump Jr. – judges on the Donald Trump reality show – with their wild animal trophies on a big game hunting safari in Zimbabwe.
In a statement posted last week on the company Facebook page Camping World sought to clarify their position. “Camping World…believes in personal freedom. In this country, people are free to choose. This issue at hand is not about whether people should be able to hunt or not. Our company is neither for nor against hunting. We are for personal choice and having people enjoy the outdoors in whatever fashion they choose. However, if and when the hunting of endangered species occurs, whether in the United States or abroad, it is not acceptable to even the most avid of hunters. We remain strong in our conviction of preserving the outdoors, protecting our great country’s lands and the freedom to choose.”
Comments from the company’s Facebook followers seem almost evenly divided between those who support Camping World and those who believe in an individual’s right to hunt. The real bone of contention seems to be what constitutes an endangered species so the RVing Examiner turned to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species for guidance.
The IUCN also notes that “some community-based conservation programs in which revenue from the sport hunting of elephants reverts directly to local communities have proved effective in increasing tolerance to elephants, and thus indirectly in reducing levels of human-elephant conflict.” This statement tends to support safari organizer Hunting Legends’ contention that they play a crucial role in supporting the local economy. Indeed, however distasteful big game hunting may at first appear to be to an outside observer the most prudent course of action would be to reserve judgement until one has been fully apprised of the facts.
While the Trump brothers may be guilty of a serious PR faux pas they don’t deserve to be vilified for their chosen pastime. Similarly, Marcus Lemonis as CEO of Good Sam and Camping World made a decision that he thought was in the best interests of both companies, as is his right. Of course, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation it’s likely that NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” will be the real winner.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC, a recreational vehicle membership club and a season 12 sponsor of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show, will not be reprising their role on Donald Trump’s show anytime soon, according to a report that ran on the TMZ (Thirty Mile Zone) website today (March 15) and reported by RVing Examiner.
The TMZ report suggests that Good Sam Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis was so incensed by photos of an African hunting safari that showed Donald Trump Jr. – one of the Celebrity Apprentice judges – and Eric Trump standing next to their trophy kills that Good Sam Enterprises and Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Camping World will not be supporting the New York based business mogul’s TV show in the future.
Camping World Chairman and CEO Lemonis, who has essentially “fired The Donald,” insisted that “I wouldn’t spend another nickel with them,” according to the TMZ report.
Camping World – Good Sam’s sister company – was a task sponsor on an outdoor recreation segment in the 2011 series of Celebrity Apprentice where competing celebrities vie for a $250,000 check for their favorite charity.
The company was scheduled to be the focus of a celebrity task in April. No word on the status of that episode.
Camping World Inc. announces plans to open a new facility in Fresno, Calif. According to a press release, the new location will join 90 other Camping World locations, including nine in California.
With expected support of city officials, Camping World is in the final stages of planning the new location, which will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership while generating tax revenue and new employment opportunities to the community. The release stated that early discussions have “shown strong support and interest from multiple manufacturers, suppliers and vendors looking for additional expansion in to this growing market.”
“Our growth plans across the country are consistent with Camping World’s philosophy of commitment to enhance our customers’ total RV experience,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. “By increasing the growth of both the retail and dealership locations in our network, Camping World is getting closer to achieving our goal of truly being the one-stop shopping location for the RV and outdoor enthusiast across the country.”
Fresno is the second new market identified in the California area in 2012 with the recent Redding location announcement with plans to open in May. The company expects to open the new Supercenter in the Fresno area later in 2012 and to hire about 25 to 30 new employees to reinforce their sales, service and support needs for this local dealership and accessory store.
“Our goal is to expand our business into new areas, and we are very excited about serving the Central California community,” said Lemonis.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC (GSE) is relocating its executive headquarters from Ventura, Calif., to Lincolnshire, Ill. The planned move was announced today (March 8) by chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis.
“Our Chicago facility provides a centralized location for all our vendors, lenders and our nationwide Camping World SuperCenter network,” said Lemonis in a press release. “Plus, it is closer to the heart of the RV industry in Elkhart, Ind.”
Lemonis said Good Sam will still maintain regional offices in Denver, Colo.; Ventura, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Bowling Green, Ky.
Good Sam Enterprises and its wholly owned subsidiaries, which include the Good Sam Club and Camping World Inc., serve the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American outdoor and recreational vehicle market via various companies, brands, products and services.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC and Camping World Inc. Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis will be among the presenters participating at the J.P. Morgan Global High Yield & Leveraged Finance Conference at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, running Feb. 27 – 29.
Good Sam Enterprises is among 200 global companies making presentations at the conference. Lemonis will deliver his presentation today beginning at 11:40 a.m. Eastern followed by a question-and-answer session. Lemonis is also expected to be involved in individualized meetings with potential investors.
Good Sam Enterprises and its wholly owned subsidiaries serve the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American outdoor and recreational vehicle market.
Good Sam Enterprises announced its selection in the fifth installment of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” featuring American business mogul Donald J. Trump.
The latest season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” debuted Feb. 19 and the episode featuring Good Sam will air April 29 on NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern and will include footage of CEO Marcus Lemonis.
Good Sam was chosen among several Fortune 500 companies to be featured as a task sponsor on the popular NBC reality series. The episode will highlight some of the benefits and services Good Sam provides to the community, according to a news release.
Trump commented, “Good Sam, one of the world’s largest lifestyle organizations, provides a wide and wonderful array of products and services, and we are very pleased to have them on our show. I think the episode is exciting and definitely a great fit for our audiences.”
On the reality show, the contestants vie for strategic position, with competitive payoffs coming in the form of sizable donations to their designated charities. The contestant chosen as Celebrity Apprentice receives a $250,000 bonus check to donate to his or her favorite philanthropy.
“We are pleased to partner with Mr. Trump with his pop culture phenomenon, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,” remarked Lemonis. “Both Good Sam and ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ have a similar focus on charitable works and Good Sam is focused on providing customer assistance in a multitude of channels. Look forward to seeing Good Sam reveal a new image to the audience.”
Camping World Inc. announced the reopening of its store in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, according to a press release.
The Camping World of Buffalo facility, located in Hamburg, is scheduled to reopen in March and operate under Camping World’s retail store model as a one-stop, full service shopping destination.
“With the reopening of Camping World of Buffalo, we are proud to once again offer our customers a one-stop shopping location for RV sales, accessories and service needs,” said Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis. “Providing all of those elements under one roof is essential for the historic Hamburg community, with its close proximity to parks and trails.”
“Customers have missed our Hamburg dealership,” commented Mark Calzone, northeast regional vice president. “And we’ve heard from many that they can’t wait until we reopen to serve the Buffalo RV community once again.”
The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for March 2012. The company is looking to hire at least 25 employees to increase their sales, service and support needs for this local dealership.
Camping World Inc. announced the March opening of a new retail location in Hendersonville, N.C.
According to a press release, Camping World of Asheville will offer convenient access for travelers at exit 44 on Highway 26 and will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership. It is in the facilities formerly occupied by Todd’s RV & Marine.
The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for March. The company is looking to hire at least 30 employees to increase their sales, service and support needs for this local dealership.
“We look forward to having Camping World serve the Western North Carolina market,” said Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis. “Our strong Carolina presence, coupled with our affiliation with NASCAR through the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, made this an easy decision.”
Camping World RV Sales, one of the nation’s leading RV retailers, announced today (Feb. 7) that it has closed a multi-year syndicated credit facility quickly approaching half a billion dollars, consisting of an amended floorplan credit facility and a letter of credit facility.
According to a press release, Bank of America, N.A., which serves as the administrative agent, led the transaction while JP Morgan, which has partnered with the company since 2003, acted as co-agent. The facility also includes seven U.S. lenders: US Bank, SunTrust, Key Bank, M & T Bank, Bank of the West, Ally Bank and Flagstar.
“Our company’s double digit return in same store sales along with an unprecedented level of profitability has earned us a multi-year facility,” Marcus A. Lemonis, Camping World chairman and CEO stated. “Our top line outlook for 2012 remains flat to slightly up. However, our tight inventory controls and right sized SGA has us well positioned for another solid financial performance.”
Floorplan financing is a line of credit that allows dealers to borrow against their inventory, and then repay that debt as they sell their inventory or borrow against the line of credit again to add new inventory, the release states.
Camping World Inc. is charting a course of aggressive growth in the first quarter of 2012, reports Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World Inc. and its Good Sam Enterprises LLC subsidiary.
New Camping World stores, most combining rolling stock and aftermarket parts and accessories, are slated to open in a wide variety of U.S. locales in the year’s first quarter – bringing the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company’s total store count to 85. Some of these new stores, Lemonis told RVBUSINESS.com, will result from an “integration” of an existing independent dealership.
“After an unbelievably strong 2011,” said Lemonis, “we believe that we have the infrastructure in place to kind of take that next step of growth. We are clearly in same-store growth mode and new-store growth mode – a combination of both.”
As part of this new expansion initiative at the nation’s highest volume RV dealership chain, Lemonis revealed, Camping World signage will soon surface in disparate locations like Conway, N.H.; Avondale, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; Redding, Calif.; St. George, Utah; Ashville, Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C., and Lake City, Winter Garden and Cocoa Beach, Fla.
At the same time, Lemonis adds, the industry will soon learn of a new floorplan credit facility approaching $400 million and a new deal recently inked between Camping World and NASCAR involving roadside assistance – a major focus for Camping World in the year ahead.
“Good Sam is now partnering with NASCAR to offer a private label product to the entire general marketplace called NASCAR Roadside Assistance,” he explained. “That’s for all types of vehicles, including passenger cars and trucks. It’s a major aftermarket partnership. We will be launching NASCAR Roadside Assistance at Daytona (where a November rally is to be held). It’s our product. We just partner with them (NASCAR). We own it. We control it. That’s a nice deal.”
The Good Sam Roadside Assistance program had signed up close to a half-million members by last fall, according to Camping World’s own press releases, offering unlimited towing to a network facility, roadside flat tire changes, battery jumps, lock-out service and other minor repairs. One-price coverage is available for RVs plus other household vehicles as part of the new program, overseen by former Coach-Net executive Ed Thor.
Meanwhile, Lemonis added, things are lining up exceedingly well for his company’s upcoming Good Sam Rally, Mar. 22-25 at the Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz. – one of three slated for 2012. Set to appear at that event, along with John “Bowzer” Bauman from Sha Na Na, are comedian Bill Cosby and C&W recording artist Martina McBride.
“The Rally is off the charts,” said Lemonis. “We are almost sold out and we are pacing the highest attendance in Phoenix that we’ve had at a Good Sam rally in years. It’s off the charts. I mean, registrations are pouring in, and it’s a multi-dealer event. Every dealer in Phoenix is there. It’s a happy place. Everybody’s sharing. All of the outdoor space is sold out, and indoor space sales are very strong as well. As we get closer, we think that we’ll have north of 7,000 people there.”
All this comes as Camping World rolls out its new Pilot/Flying J Good Sam Club member discounts on fuel, propane and dump station charges – part of the national fuel-retailer’s new status as “Official Fuel Provider & Travel Center of Good Sam and Camping World.” Through this new program, club members enjoy at least three cents off gas and five cents off diesel purchases when using their “Pilot Flying J RV Plus Card.” Greater discounts are available to “Deluxe” and “Life” club members.
Trailer Life Directory and Woodall Publications, publishers of “North America’s top two campground directories and leading campground search websites and mobile applications,” announced today (Nov. 21) that they will be “uniting” to form a single “super directory” North American print edition in 2013.
According to a press release, the two companies will join forces to “inspire travel by bringing the highest quality, most complete and accurate information about RV and camping travel to the most engaged RVers and campers in North America.”
On announcing the merger Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of parent Good Sam Enterprises LLC, said, “The consolidation of the two directories into one ‘super directory’ will provide our customers with a single source for their RVing and camping travel planning. The coming together of these two brands enables us to serve as more than a directory, and will represent an ‘everything RV guide’ for the consumer to be inspired to fully explore the RV lifestyle across North America.”
“This merger will also allow us to drive more business to our RV park and campground advertisers and to our network of Good Sam Parks,” continued Lemonis. “We know that our success is predicated on the success of our customers, and combining the strength of the industry’s two leading directory brands is just one way in which we can ensure we are serving the needs of our campground, RV park and resort customers. Advertisers have asked us to consider a unified directory so that they can focus their marketing spend in one powerful vehicle. Thus we made this decision with our park and campground partners very much in mind, to provide them one ‘super directory’ which will be the ultimate marketing showcase for them.”
Beginning with the 2013 edition, a new campground directory under the Good Sam brand “will emerge from the best of both Woodall’s and Trailer Life directories, representing nearly 130 years of combined industry service and campground expertise.” The release stated that this new directory will offer higher circulation and even more online and mobile application marketing opportunities to campgrounds and parks. This combined directory will utilize the Trailer Life 10/10/10 rating system, with some enhancements borrowed from the Woodall’s rating system. The ratings as always will be based on personal visits by directory representatives.
Other improvements to the 2013 combined directory will include state and provincial points of interest, the RVers “Bucket List” for 2013, tips to improve your RV and camping lifestyle, 10-Minute Tech Tips, RV maintenance advice, how to buy or sell an RV, dealers and service station locations, games, puzzles, recipes and coupons. The directory will also spotlight the Good Sam RV Park and Resort network, “the largest affiliated park network in North America,” featuring more than 1,700 RV parks and resorts where Good Sam members can save 10% on nightly camping fees.
Both the Trailer Life and Woodall’s brands will continue into 2013 and beyond according to the company. Woodall’s regional directory editions will continue to be published in 2013, in an exclusive partnership with AAA, and Trailer Life Magazine will continue to be published on a monthly basis. Likewise websites, online directory search, and mobile applications will continue to exist for both brands.
The combined 2013 combined directory will not affect the distribution and circulation of the 2012 Trailer Life and Woodall’s directories, websites and mobile applications, as both the Trailer Life and Woodall’s 2012 directory editions will be available to consumers just the same as past years.
“We have some great enhancements for our advertising partners planned for our 2013 ‘super directory’ and are excited to share our plans with the industry at the upcoming ARVC Conference,” said Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of the new combined directory. “Not only will we have more exciting marketing tools for parks to connect with avid RVers and campers, we will also expand our number of field teams to permit them to spend more time working with individual parks on their marketing program.
“We also want to assure our advertising customers that our 2012 Woodall’s and Trailer Life Directory circulation commitments will be met through our various distribution channels, beginning in December of this year and continuing throughout 2012. And we will continue to connect campgrounds with active RVers through our three websites, www.trailerlifedirectory.com, www.woodalls.com and www.goodsamclub.com, as well as through our mobile applications for both Trailer Life and Woodall’s directories.”
The release stated that the 2013 combined directory will take advantage of the previously separate circulation strategies for each brand. The Woodall’s Directory has been distributed through bookstores, mass merchant chains, Camping World stores, RV dealers and campgrounds, while the Trailer Life Directory has been primarily distributed to the Good Sam Club members and through internet sales. The combined directory in 2013 will utilize both these distribution strategies to reach all the active, affluent RVers and campers that each of these brands reached separately in the past. Campground search tools for the combined directory will also be available at www.trailerlifedirectory.com, www.woodalls.com and www.goodsamclub.com websites, as well as on campground search mobile applications for both iPhone and Android.
“Having this ‘super directory’ under the Good Sam brand will give our advertisers greater share of mind with the market’s largest RVer database, the combined 4 million plus avid RVers who are members of Good Sam and customers of Camping World,” added Lemonis. “While advertisers will benefit from the larger consumer audience, RVers will reap the rewards of a single source for all their RV travel planning needs. Publishing this combined directory under the Good Sam brand will be a powerful unifying strategy for our entire organization, and will further our mission to grow the Good Sam brand, Good Sam Club, and our Good Sam Park network.”
The evolution of the company formerly known as Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) continues.
Woodalls Campground Management reported that the name of the company was changed on May 2 to Good Sam Enterprises LLC, and today (Nov. 11) during a conference call to bondholders, CEO Marcus Lemonis offered the public a new description of the company.
He said the company could best be described as “a financial services company that has some clubs and magazines as marketing tools.”
“Roadside assistance is the No. 1 service offered by the company today. Roadside assistance has become the product of the day,” he explained.
Good Sam offers road assistance to nearly 500,000 RV, car and truck customers and is close to announcing major private label insurance programs with Flying J (400,000 in its database) and NASCAR (72 million fans nationwide) and is in negotiations on establishing similar programs with leading RV builders Thor Industries Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc., Lemonis said.
In preparation for the expected membership increase, Good Sam previously announced it has hired senior industry executive Ed Thor as vice president of business development. Thor joins the company after serving for more than 10 years with Coach-Net, a roadside assistance company focused on serving the manufacturers and dealers.
The swing toward the financial services emphasis would be a major redirection for the company which had been best known in recent years for its magazines and club member services. Good Sam is also parent to national RV dealer network FreedomRoads LLC and Camping World retail stores.
Lemonis was named CEO less than a year ago but since that time, the company has disposed of six or seven businesses (primarily magazines) he deemed not in the core focus.
In its quarterly report filed on Thursday (Nov. 10), the company reported revenues of $128.6 million for the third quarter of 2011 increased by $4.0 million, or 3.2%, from the comparable period in 2010. Net income in the third quarter of 2011 was $2.0 million compared to $1.8 million for the same period in 2010.
For the nine months, revenues were $362.3 million, an increase of $0.6 million, or 0.2%, from the comparable period in 2010. Net income during the nine-month period was $4.6 million compared to a net loss of $6.2 million for the same period in 2010.
“We feel very good where our business is at today,” Lemonis said.
He said getting the company’s sales, general and administrative costs down has been a primary focus this year. Approximately 100 employees were let go this year from the organization, and Lemonis anticipates no more than a dozen or 15 additional layoffs systemwide.
He noted that the company incurred in the third quarter health insurance costs totaling $600,000 above the third quarter in 2010. The company also has incurred severance costs this year as well as costs associated with the businesses it sold, he added.
Lemonis concluded saying he would be visiting with investors in California and New York in the coming weeks to expand upon certain details contained in the company’s financial report.
Camping World President and CEO Marcus Lemonis had a hand in turning the ZCenter’s 10th Annual “Have A Heart/Heal A Heart” Casino Night fundraiser on Oct. 1 into the most successful dinner fundraiser in the agency’s history – netting $209,000 for their children’s advocacy and counseling programs.
Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, based in northern Chicago, provides survivors of sexual assault or abuse with comprehensive, confidential, services at no charge including: medical and legal advocacy, emergency room and police sensitivity training, 24-hour crisis hotline and crisis intervention services, and counseling for both individuals and groups. The center’s Community Education department also provides prevention education to thousands of area school children each year.
“Marcus was absolutely phenomenal,” said ZCenter’s Director of Development Joe Howard. “He pushed the auction to record numbers and strengthened people’s participation to the cause every step of the way. He made everyone who is connected to our organization very proud.”
In addition to bringing two tables full of guests, Camping World and Good Sam donated numerous RV rentals, VIP ticket packages to concerts, racing and entertainment events.
“Marcus is passionate about doing everything possible to support ZCenter’s vital programs and services for survivors of rape and incest, and we at Camping World and Good Sam are looking forward to welcoming the evening’s winning bidders to our signature events, including ‘The Tim McGraw Tour’,” said Zrinka Allen, executive vice president of Camping World and Good Sam, and longtime ZCenter supporter.
Good Sam announced today (Oct. 25) projections to soon reach 500,000 RV, car and truck Roadside Assistance customers.
“The charter is simple, customers should be protected while on the road and it is Good Sam’s job to bring that service at the very best price and satisfaction guarantee,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam, in a press release. “As we move closer to serving over half a million RVers we must stay focused on great service at a low price. This promise will be backed by a money-back guarantee as well as a price match guarantee. Customers will have the opportunity to renew at a 91% rate. As we strive to get better, these promises will ensure a better experience.”
In preparation for the expected membership increase, Good Sam has hired senior industry executive Ed Thor as vice president of business development. Thor joins the company after serving for more than 10 years with Coach-Net, a roadside assistance company focused on serving the manufacturers and dealers.
“We are very excited to have Ed join our team as we focus on expanding into new markets and continue to bring our members more value,” said Mark Kupper, Good Sam vice president and general manager of its Roadside Assistance business.
The Good Sam Roadside Assistance program offers unlimited towing to a network facility, roadside flat tire changes, battery jumps, lock out service and other minor repairs. The program has also added a new GPS-enabled mobile app available for download on iPhone, BlackBerry or Android.
In a lengthy column in the most recent edition of Highways magazine, Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam Enterprises LLC (formerly Affinity Group Inc.), outlined changes in the Good Sam Club that include:
• A new fuel discount program.
• More value-oriented insurance, roadside assistance and extended warranty programs.
• A revamped trip-planning system.
Lemonis said the changes are being made at the behest of ”literally thousands” of Good Sam Club members who e-mailed him during the six months since he took over Good Sam’s helm.
”My role is to guide the direction of the club, but it is the responsibility of you and nearly 1 million fellow members to provide the direction,” Lemonis said in the column.
The new fuel-discount program, which is in its final stage of development with an unnamed national travel center, is ”at the top of our priority list” and will be tiered, depending on members ”loyalty” to the Good Sam Club, Lemonis said.
”If we don’t bring you value for your dollar then we have failed,” Lemonis added.
Responding members’ requests to improve the quality of the Good Sam Park network, Lemonis said his mission is ”not only to bring a variety of parks to the network, but to become a better partner to those parks.”
In an effort to get more members to visit Good Sam parks, the company has launched a $5 discount coupon program paid for by the club that can be used at any Good Sam park.
”I also want to drive members to our Good Sam parks and show the support from our membership,” he said.
With regard to Highways, the Good Sam Club’s official magazine, Lemonis said the plan is to increase editorial content. ”The book in hindsight was too heavy with advertising and did not contain enough member content,” he wrote, reporting that an e-mail survey will be sent to members within a few weeks asking for further suggestions about Highways’ content.
A new product — the Good Sam RV Travel Guide — is under development and will be available to members free in early 2012, he reported.
He also promised to reduce the amount of mail that Good Sam Club members receive from the club, although he asked for patience as a new system is established. ”Often times, antiquated systems and philosophies have driven this process,” he said.
In addition to the Good Sam Club, Lemonis also is the head of Camping World and the Coast to Coast membership company.