HOLLAND — Leon Slikkers, a marine industry fixture whose boat-building career dates back to the 1940s, is retiring from Holland-based Tiara Yachts Inc., the company announced today.
Slikkers, 93, most recently served as the company’s chairman while his son, Tom Slikkers, has run day-to-day operations as president and CEO since 2012.
“This company, its rich history and all that it has accomplished wouldn’t have been possible if not for the vision, passion and unyielding entrepreneurial drive that our father has demonstrated for a lot of decades,” Tom Slikkers said in a statement. “His dedication to excellence and the translation of his passion for boat building across three generations will be a lasting legacy as we continue to provide exceptional customer service and highly specialized products.”
Leon Slikkers’ formal retirement from the company caps a decades-long and trailblazing career in boating. He was among the first to build boats out of fiberglass instead of wood, and founded S2 Yachts Inc. — Tiara Yachts’ parent company — in 1974.
Tiara Yachts specializes in mid-sized luxury yachts and employs more than 600 people at its 800,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Holland.
Leon Slikkers began his career as a carpenter at Chris-Craft in 1946. By the mid-1950s, Slikkers had sold his home to start building mahogany runabout boats under Slickcraft Boat Co. He would soon experiment with fiberglass and composite materials before selling Slickcraft in 1969 to focus on S2 Yachts. The company began manufacturing sports boats and sports fishing models by the late 1970s.
In recent years, Tiara Yachts began responding to consumer demand for more high-quality, luxury outboard-powered models. In 2017, Tiara Yachts developed a suite of outboard-powered boats that led to the launch of its 48 LS model, the flagship of the company’s LS Series, in February 2021.
Next year, the company plans to launch a 55-foot inboard yacht and the company’s “most personalized and technically advanced product” to date, according to company officials.
“It was with our father’s foresight and vision that we made the critical decision to pursue a Tiara-inspired outboard luxury brand,” Senior Vice President of Operations Bob Slikkers said in a statement. “That we’ve been able to embrace and so quickly adapt to those changes is a credit to our father’s original vision combined with the skill and dedication of our design, engineering, manufacturing and sales teams. We set out to do something bold for our company and our brand, and we successfully pulled it off, a true testimony of our leadership team and their ability to achieve greater success in the future.”
Tiara Yachts felt the brunt of the Great Recession nearly 15 years ago as consumer demand for luxury yachts tanked. The company pursued diversification in the following years, including with a subsidiary that manufactured a line of wind turbine blades but was later closed in 2015.
However, the company has seen steady revenue growth over the past four years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic when company officials saw customers eager to pursue outdoor activities amid widespread closures.