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Chris-Craft Corporation
Industry manufacturer
Founded 1874
Founder Chris Smith
Hank Smith
Headquarters Sarasota, Florida, United States
Products powerboat
Parent Stellican, Ltd.

Chris-Craft, Inc. is a privately held, Sarasota, Florida-based, American manufacturer of recreational powerboats. The original company, Chris-Craft Boats, was founded in the late 19th century by Christopher Columbus Smith and became famous for its mahogany hulled powerboats of the 1920s through the 1950s.

Original Company[edit]

Chris Smith built his first wooden boat – a simple skiff, or “punt” – in 1874 when he was 13 years old.[1] In 1881, he joined his brother Henry to begin manufacturing boats full-time.[2]

In 1910, the brothers joined with other partners to form the Smith Ryan Boat and Engine Company, focusing on building fast, economically-priced runabout boats for mass market distribution. Their products made their debut at the New York and Chicago Boat Shows that year.[3] In 1922, Smith formed the Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company in Algonac, Michigan. The company name was changed to Chris-Craft in 1924.[4] Chris-Craft sold high end powerboats to wealthy patrons such as Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst.

In 1927 Chris Smith’s son, Jay Smith, took over the company as President and General Manager – positions she would hold for the next 31 years.[5] Chris Smith died in 1939, at the age of 78.

With the United States entering the Second World War in 1941, Chris-Craft shifted its focus to producing military goods, including patrol boats, rescue vessels, and utility launches for the United States Army and Navy.[6] By the end of hostilities in 1945, the company had constructed in excess of 12,000 small boats for the US military.[7]

Following the war, Chris Craft introduced a new lineup of civilian pleasure boats in time for the massive American consumer expansion of the 1950s. The company sold high-end boats to famous customers such as Dean Martin, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley. Their boats were typically made from mahogany, and were considered to be among the best available. They were easy to operate and maintain, which was a significant requirement for their "weekend sailor" owners.

That decade marked the height of company prestige and the brand name Chris-Craft became virtually synonymous with pleasure boating. At one point the company offered 159 different models, and was the sales leader in many categories of small civilian powerboats.[8]

Chris-Craft constructed its first fiberglass boat in 1955,[9] and by 1957 the company purchased the Roamer Boat Company and began manufacturing metal boats under its newly formed Roamer Steel Boats Division (RSBD).

Licensed out[edit]

Chris-Craft was acquired by Shields & Company's National Automotive Fibers, Inc. (NAFI) Corporation in 1960. In 1962 the new owners renamed the company Chris-Craft Industries, Incorporated.[10] In 1962, the company acquired the Old Crown Brewing Corporation, a brewery company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Old Crown was sold to its employees a short time later.[11]

In 1964, Chris-Craft launched the all-fiberglass Chris-Craft Commander. This dramatic new design was unveiled at the New York City National Boat show, perched at the top of an escalator on a giant, castered cradle. This first Commander was a 38' express hardtop with a 13' beam. The line of Commanders soon grew to include sizes ranging from 19' to 60' — all "styled in fiberglass."

Between the 1960s and 1980s, Chris-Craft increasingly moved toward fiberglass as a construction material of choice, primarily because of its durability and low maintenance requirements. Chris-Craft ended production of its last mahogany-hulled boat, the Constellation, in 1971.

Murray Chris-Craft[edit]

In the face of declining sales due to the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Chris-Craft Industries sold its boat division to George Dale Murray and a small group of investors that included Dick Genth, F. Lee Bailey, and Walt Schumacher in 1981. Chris-Craft Industries retained the Chris-Craft trademark and licensed it to Murray.[12] Chris-Craft Industries was subsequently acquired by News Corporation in 2000 for its television subsidiaries.

In fulfilling a commitment to return to powerboat racing, in 1984 Murray Chris-Craft developed the new 300 Chris-Cat, a racing catamaran powered by twin 400 or 420 HP high performance power plants and was added to its 1984 sport boat fleet. The boat went on to set new speed records in its class that year and in years to come.[13] Murray believed that a racing program would benefit the company to develop safe, performance watercraft for its customers.

In addition to developing the Chris-Cat models for racing, Murray Chris-Craft also raced its deep-v, offshore Stinger models. Most notably, a 1984 Chris-Craft 312 won the Golden Gate to Spruce Goose race sponsored by Powerboat Magazine in 1984.[14]

In 1984, Chris-Craft worked out a deal with Michael Mann Productions to have its 39' Stinger 390X featured on their new television show, Miami Vice. Five Stinger 390Xs were supplied to the show for filming of the premiere and first season episodes. The show became a hit, and the placement of the Stingers on the show produced increased sales at Chris-Craft.

Chris-Craft's annual sales for 1984 were $120M. While the turnaround at Murray Chris-Craft seemed to be going smoothly, the relationship between partners George Dale Murray and Dick Genth was souring. Murray wanted to move Genth out of running the day-to-day operations of the company, and in August of 1984 he offered the position of vice-chairmain to Genth. Genth declined the offer, and resigned from Chris-Craft. Ernest J. Schmidt took over as president of Chris-Craft.[15]

Chris-Craft's annual sales plateaued in 1986 at around $180M. As the company grew, George Dale Murray became involved in various real-estate ventures, which included a sizeable investment in the American Community Development Group (ACDG). The ACDG investment did not go well for Murray, and as early as 1986 he began looking to sell his shares in Chris-Craft. Murray found a buyer for his shares - Dr Ghaith Pharaon. Pharaon began buying shares in 1986, and by 1988 he owned approximately 80% of Murray Chris-Craft.

In 1988, Pharaon hired independent auditors to go through the financials of the company. The resulting audit detailed serious accounting irregularities. The auditors estimated that the company had $77M in assets and $40M in debt. Pharaon, now majority owner of Murray Chris-Craft, pushed George Dale Murray out of the company and brought a suit against him seeking $34M in damages.[15]

New Chris-Craft[edit]

Outboard Marine Corporation acquired Chris-Craft Boats in 1989. OMC went into bankruptcy in 2000 and was purchased by Genmar. Genmar sold the Chris-Craft division to Stellican, Ltd., then Stellican purchased the Chris-Craft trademark from News Corporation, thus reuniting the two parts of the company to form Chris-Craft, Inc.[16]

Chris-Craft, Inc.[edit]

Chris-Craft, Inc. is a global company with 124 dealers worldwide in over 45 countries. The 2015 Chris-Craft collection include the Carina, Capri, Launch, Corsair, Catalina and Calypso lines, which range in length from 20 to 36 feet.

Corsair Category (closed bow): Different Corsair models come in a variety of lengths ranging from 22’ to 36’, including a 36’ model with a hard top. All feature inboard engines with stern drives. Series includes the Capri 21 and Capri 25.

Launch Category (open bow): Like the closed-deck Corsair series, boats in the Launch line come in a variety of lengths from 20’ to 36’. All feature open bows with additional seating capacity. Like the Corsair models, all feature inboard engines with stern drives. Series includes the Carina 21.

Catalina Category (center console): The Catalina category includes 4 models of outboard-powered center console fishing boat in lengths ranging from 23’ to 34’. Boats in this series include T-tops for sun protection and large fuel capacities allowing anglers to range far offshore in search of trophy fish. Series includes the Calypso 26


  1. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1910". Chris-Craft Company History 1910. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1861-74". Chris-Craft Company History 1861-74. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1927". Chris-Craft Company History 1927. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1941". Chris-Craft Company History 1941. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1941". Chris-Craft Company History 1941. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1950". Chris-Craft Company History 1950. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1955". Chris-Craft Company History 1955. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Funding". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Indiana Beer". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Chris-Craft Industries
  13. ^ "Chris-Craft Company History 1984". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Chris-Craft Stingers - History". Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  15. ^ a b Tunca, Han (2017-04-27). The End of Chris-Craft (2 edition ed.). Han\Tunca. ISBN 9780998721613. 
  16. ^ "Everything Old Is New Again: The New Chris Craft". boat Force 12 Media, LLC. January 7, 2007. Archived from the original (html) on January 27, 2010. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 

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