Jim Henry, founder of Mad River, is neither working for Confluence nor in discussions to work for Confluence, despite two published reports that indicate otherwise.
One story, "Confluence Battens Down," published in the November/December issue of Paddlesports Business, quotes John Bergeron, CEO of Confluence, stating the company was in "substantive discussions" with Henry to return to the company and assist with new models. The other story, "The Turnaround Specialist," published in Paddle Dealer's Winter 2004 issue, indicates that Bergeron told them that Henry has been rehired to "design a signature series of boats, and to act as consultant, designer, and personality at shows and symposiums."
SNEWS spoke with Henry, who told us that he has had only one conversation with Bergeron, in late August, and that it was certainly not what he would term as substantive.
"Other than that meeting, I have had no contact with Confluence," said Henry, who is an independent designer. "They do make some of my boats and I do get royalties from those."
When we asked if he would work with Confluence, Henry told us that he'd given Confluence no indication he would be interested in working with it for a variety of reasons, including a very important one -- they still owe him money.
In addition, he's not sure where the company is heading with the Mad River brand.
"They say they want a Jim Henry signature brand, whatever that means, but what are they going to make it out of? They don't have the technology to do much more than Rotomolding, and I'm certainly not going to put my name on boat like the Adventure 16 with eight beer can holders," he said.
Henry did allow that what Mad River is producing right now is much better than several years ago and is fine for the "general, beginning or uneducated public," but he also points out that is not where Mad River was or where Mad River was ever intended to be.
"We were a high-end canoe manufacturer with performance laminates and when they purchased us, they went away from that and did it poorly with shapes that didn't work, seats that didn't fit or were installed in the wrong place, and rails that were too flimsy. Mad River started getting a bad rap and they've been trying to recover from that ever since," he added.
Henry said he has long felt that everyone should have access to his designs and construction techniques. It is that philosophy that led him to agree to work with Bell Canoe in April because, Henry said, "I consider them the best canoe manufacturer out there currently."
SNEWS attempted to contact Bergeron for his side of the story, but we were directed to contact American Capital Strategies which has, in the last week or so, instructed Confluence management that all communication with the media be conducted through it. As of our deadline, no return call from ACS officials arrived.
We did check in with both Paddlesports Business and Paddle Dealer and were told that after checking notes and recordings of the interviews with Bergeron, they stand firmly behind their printed stories as reflecting what Bergeron stated to them.
SNEWS View: Sigh. We're tired of writing silly stories about Confluence silliness. Just when you hope the company is finally turning a corner, it seems to find some new and creative way to step right back into the slop again. Why would Bergeron say the things he did to two different reporters if they weren't true or he didn't believe them to be true? We have no idea because ACS, in yet another brilliant move underscoring the investor's clueless nature, has put the communication clamps on Confluence. So, by the looks of things, all future stories about the company will be based on pure speculation and interviews with everyone else but Confluence about Confluence -- and we can assure ACS that everyone else will be very, very happy to talk. Of course, we also have to wonder why neither Paddlesports Business nor Paddle Dealer thought to call Jim Henry to confirm what Bergeron was stating about Henry and his future relationship with Confluence. Had either done so, we would not be writing this, and likely they would have been publishing a different take. Bottom line here is, Henry is not working with Confluence and is fully committed to ensuring that Bell excels with the designs and ideas he has given them.