Christensen: Through the thorns to the stars?
Industry

Christensen: Through the thorns to the stars?

The shipyard is reborn after a series of trials between former and current owners.
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The American shipyard Christensen, after years of legal disputes, will finally be able to move to a bigger production facility. Within the next few months, the company will complete the relocation of production from its 30 year base in Vancouver, Washington, to its new shipyard on Lake Tellico in Tennessee.This move was preceded by a long lawsuit between co-founders Dave Christensen and Henry Luken.

According to Christensen's President Jim Gilbert, the company is currently negotiating the first projects to be implemented on the new site. Construction of the new shipyard will be completed within six months. During this period the company will develop several models with fresh design. However, Christensen plans to follow the traditional concept of large volume boats in general.

The shipyard is currently building its 50-meter-hull 42 on the Vancouver site. The boat will be moved to Tennessee for completion in the summer. According to Gilbert, the company employs about 70 people, and all of them were offered to stay in the company and keep their salaries if they decide to move to Tennessee.

Disagreements that last for decades

Dave Christensen founded the company in 1983. Since then, the shipyard has specialized in boats up to 45 metres long and 10 metres wide. The production took 17,000 square meters.

In the 90's, due to the global industry crisis and high construction costs, the company's profits became volatile. Often, being unable to borrow from a bank to finance projects, the shipyard would sell boats in advance and current processes would be paid for by infrequent buyers.

Dave Christensen and Henry Luken first met in 1997 when the latter bought the yacht from the shipyard. In 2003, Lucien acquired a 50% stake in the company and joined the board of directors. The rest of the shares were divided between Christensen and his family.

As legal documents later showed, partners' dissatisfaction with each other started to grow from the same period.

Luken insisted that his funds were in company accounts and used in transactions or even disappeared - instead of being held in a trust while boats were being built.

Christensen objected that Lucien demanded higher commissions on every sale, reducing revenue.


A hair's breadth from bankruptcy.

In 2006, Lucien began building a new shipyard on nearly 42,000 square meters of Lake Tellico in his native state of Tennessee. He was going to open the eastern branch of Christensen, which would be suitable for creating boats up to 68 meters long.

However, due to economic problems, the construction site was soon frozen. The economic crisis also hit the company's operations in Vancouver, eventually forcing up to 80% of its staff to be laid off. Plus, Dave Christensen resigned from his position. Christensen headed the company for 25 years, but in 2009 he handed over the reins to his adopted son. The founder of Christensen suffered from Alzheimer's disease. In 2018, he passed away.

Since late 2014, under the Uniform Commercial Code, numerous creditors have begun filing notifications that they are interested in the shipyard's property as collateral for debts. The threat of imminent bankruptcy forced Lucien to file a lawsuit in 2015 asking for the transfer of the company to a competitive management team. At the end of this period, the court concluded that the best way to satisfy the creditors was to sell the company to anyone who wanted to keep it afloat.

«A surprise» rescue.

As a result, the shipyard was sold to Luken for $5.5 million despite Christensen's disapproval. The transaction involved the transfer of the company's name and all its assets, including the long-term leased shipyard, and the reform of Christensen Yachts into a new business structure.

Christensen insisted that Luken used his financial influence and board position to deliberately bankrupt the company and buy it cheaper.

The second court dispute started a year later between former partners and lasted more than two years. It did not end until February 2019, when the parties agreed to sell their Vancouver operations to Vigor Industries, a U.S. shipbuilding and repair company. According to Yacht Harbour, Vigor plans to use the acquisition to build a maneuverable support vessel to land the U.S. Army. The company plans to hire 130 workers to begin with and to increase its staff to 400 in a few years. During its heyday, Christensen provided jobs for up to 500 specialists.

Christensen family members do not comment on the situation. According to Luken, the shipyard's property has been pledged and he will receive almost $5 million from the sale. That is, he will thus compensate for almost the entire amount he spent to buy the Christensensen shares.

However, Lucien still claims that he suffered a loss of $15 million, mainly due to a yacht he once bought at the shipyard but never delivered.

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