WaterMark and Duncan Robins Part Ways, Rep Network Restructured

Duncan Robins, formerly president of WaterMark's gear division, has left the company, according to a June 4 company statement, "to pursue other interests, as he has successfully completed his goal of overseeing WaterMark's smooth transition of Yakima."

Duncan Robins, formerly president of WaterMark's gear division, has left the company, according to a June 4 company statement, "to pursue other interests, as he has successfully completed his goal of overseeing WaterMark's smooth transition of Yakima."

The statement explained WaterMark was undergoing management and organizational changes: Jim Clark, the company's boat division president is assuming the role of Chief Revenue Officer overseeing all of the company's customer service, marketing, and sales; and John Rukavina, CEO of WaterMark, was already in Arcata, reportedly to assume the role of COO while the company begins seeking a person to fill the COO position.

We called immediately after receiving the release and asked to talk to Rukavina. We were politely told that was probably not going to be possible. We asked to speak with Robins, but were told that was definitely not possible and that we needed to speak with Clark.

Clark told SNEWS, "I need to refer you to the press release and reference the statement that all of the organizational changes were planned for sometime, and Duncan's departure is simply a manifestation of that strategy. I really enjoyed working with Duncan, but he has completed his goals and has made the decision to leave the company."

The company is currently in the process of searching for a COO right now and has, according to Clark, interviewed several potential suitors already.

With Robins out and Clark now overseeing the services and revenue side of the business, the two divisions -- Gear and Boat, formed last Sept. with Rukavina proclaiming that was to better service the dealer base -- are being scrapped to, you got it, provide better service and benefits to the company's retailers and consumers.

The new COO will, according to Clark, reside in Arcata to oversee the operations there, and essentially be responsible for the backside of the business, including engineering and product development.

In addition, Watermark is revamping or realigning its rep service base so that "one sales rep. group in any given territory will represent all the company's specialty boat brands (Dagger, Islander, and Perception) and one agency will represent all the gear brands (Yakima and Harmony). In some regions, one sales organization will represent all WaterMark boats and gear."

SNEWS View: You know, we would love it if, just once, companies such as WaterMark would realize that simply telling the truth is so, so much better than trying to throw up smoke-screens and mirrors to deflect scrutiny. The game will always go -- company deflects, news investigates, company throws more smoke, news media gets very curious and digs more, company ducks, news media digs more and talks to company insiders and folks who know the truth, and then news media reveals a truth that makes company suddenly feel very uncomfortable. In this case, the truth is, Robins didn't leave. He was forced out, fired, or encouraged to resign -- you decide the euphemism.

We looked over notes of interviews with Robins dating back over a year, including recent talks following Tom Andrews leaving the company weeks ago, and at no time did Robins give any indication that his plan was to leave. Quite the contrary. In fact, interviews with others at WaterMark all attribute the company's recent successes, acquisitions and direction to Robins, stating time and again that without his vision the company would not be where it was. So are we now to believe that suddenly, Robins' departure was part of a plan that was kept secret all along? Please! If so, the departure would have been more planned, orchestrated and smooth. Rukavina relocating to Arcata temporarily, and Clark flying to Arcata suddenly, is anything but smooth. Perhaps Robins' open-door, tell-the-employees-everything style did not fit well with the company anymore. Or did unforeseen challenges with the melding of Harmony into Yakima's Mexico facility spell doom for Robins in WaterMark's eyes? Perhaps the Rhode Gear deal did not work out as sweetly has hoped? Perhaps Robins was straying too far from the company's originally penned business plan and that was making investors uncomfortable.

Rukavina's press release quote does appear to say perhaps more than he intended when read with the knowledge that Robins did not leave willingly: "We are continuing down the path we originally established in our business plan when we acquired Yakima. To reach our goal of becoming the leader in technical outdoor equipment, we must become one company with one vision and one voice."

The bottom line is, it appears the company -- that would be Rukavina and his Atlanta-based ownership team -- either lost confidence with Robins or they decided that the company needed to go in another direction with different leadership, and that Robins' voice was no longer part of that equation. Either way, that's OK -- if the company would just say it that way.

We contacted Robins after verifying the actual facts of his departure with insiders and others close to the situation and, true to his nature, he declined to elaborate or say anything negative. Instead, he chose to tell us, "I feel no bitterness, more sadness. There are great people at that company, and I wish them well." We pressed Robins for answers and, he told us, there were none to give, and we'd have to talk to either Rukavina or Clark. Robins did tell us he is taking a few months of personal time to spend with his family -- camping, fishing, and hanging out. And he is talking to other companies about opportunities. We can safely say any company who can land him will be lucky indeed. For those who wish to stay in touch with Robins, you can reach him via email at duncrobins@aol.com.


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