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Playing the Trump Card

By bob mcgee – May 15, 2017

Imagine. The next president of the Gander Mountain outdoor specialty chain may be plucked from an upcoming business-focused reality show on CNBC. That decision will ultimately be made by businessman and television personality Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Camping World and host of The Profit, who is launching a second show on the cable network this year called The Partner. Its premise: Lemonis searches for a manager to help oversee businesses he invests in.  

Last month, as reported here, Camping World acquired assets of Gander Mountain, including its trademarks, intellectual property and online and Overton’s operations, for $37.5 million. Since then, Lemonis has taken to his phone and Twitter (his handle is @marcuslemonis) to negotiate with Gander landlords (for better lease terms) and placate Gander associates and customers worried about their employment and fate of the local store. He has also announced a nameplate change to Gander Outdoors and offered $25,000 to anyone who develops a new logo for the outdoor specialist.  

Asked in one Tweet if he will consider keeping open more than 70-75 Gander locations open, Lemonis responds, “I will go as long as the path to profitability is clear.”

At this juncture, it appears Camping World will move to keep more than the minimum 17 Gander doors required in its asset purchase. It has until October 6 to determine which additional Gander leases to retain. But, based on Tweets, the merchandise mix for surviving locations remains under review. Gander Mountain is unlikely to remain in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Beirut-born Lemonis points out in a Tweet, because the city won’t permit Camping World to sell RVs within its limits despite letting Gander sell boats there. Marrying the two banners in a single location appears imperative in the go-forward strategy. Liquidators have begun the process of clearing all of Gander’s stores as SIX discovered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota last week. Most items, including coolers and tents, were marked down 10-15 percent. But no discounts on guns or ammunition were being offered.  

Last Tuesday, nearly seven months after its October 2016 IPO raised nearly $250 million, Camping World filed a secondary offering of 10 million shares. The Lincolnshire, IL company intends to sell 3.5 million of the total to raise more than $106 million and help fund Gander store re-openings and initial working capital needs. The other 6.5 million Class A CWH shares are being sold by certain Camping World stakeholders.  

Serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Lemonis appeared on two episodes of Celebrity Apprentice in 2011 and 2012. After the second episode, he denounced hunting and pulled his sponsorship following social media-circulated hunting photos of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. If a new Gander Mountain executive emerges from one of his CNBC programs later this year, the words being heard will be “You’re Hired,” not the president’s trademark, “You’re Fired.”

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