No one knows just yet if this weekend’s seventh annual Cigarette Owners Rendezvous will break the 2020 event’s 104-boat record. Cigarette owners from around the country are still arriving at Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo., which once again is hosting the gathering, and many of the 80-plus boats there so far are on today’s fun run.
With the brand under new ownership, the seventh annual Cigarette Owners Rendezvous is underway this weekend. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But one thing is certain: John Ruiz, the company’s new co-owner and the most passionate Cigarette sportboat and center console owner you’ll ever meet, would have been there if he could. With the sale of the company finalized less than a month ago, a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks simply wasn’t in the cards for the Miami-based billionaire entrepreneur and attorney.
“I wanted to go but with the closing occurring so recently it just wasn’t possible,” said Ruiz via a telephone interview this afternoon. “But (Cigarette president) Erik Christiansen is there and I plan to be in a lot of Cigarette events moving forward.”
Ruiz has extensive plans for the iconic Opa-locka, Fla.-based company. They include expanding and “ramping up” its production capacity, as well as dedicating a portion of the facility to in-house refurbishment—from repower to paint-and-interior refreshment—of Cigarette models for existing customers.
“We are super-excited about that,” he said.
The enthusiastic Ruiz, who partnered with Ophir Sternberg of Miami-headquartered Lionheart Capital to purchase the company, has been getting to know Cigarette’s employees including Christiansen and engineer Chad Braver, the son of former owner Skip Braver. He also speaks with the senior Braver several times a week.
“It’s all gone extremely well so far—and we’ve already sold more boats than expected,” Ruiz said. “We have sold eight boats since taking over and we have another six that are committed to go to Puerto Rico. We’re just finalizing that agreement.
“Cigarette has been doing a little more than 20 boats a year,” he added. “So in a matter of weeks, we’ve made great progress.”