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From Wall Street To 21st Street

Though he came to appreciate high-performance powerboats, Lee Kimmell, the former chief executive officer of American Marine Holdings, the parent company of Donzi Marine and Pro-Line Boats until 2008-2009, never had much use for the high-performance marine industry. A former Wall Street investment banker, Kimmell was fond of saying “I hate the boat business” to begin his keynote addresses at Donzi’s annual dealer meetings. His follow up to that unusual opener for a motivational speech was always the same.

“I come to work everyday for one reason. To win.”

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In last week’s passing of former Donzi Marine leader Lee Kimmell (shown here at left with Donzi’s Steve Simon) the high-performance marine industry lost one of its most colorful and controversial characters.

Another frequent Kimmell zinger? “There’s a reason the corporate headhunters of the world aren’t beating down the doors of marine industry executives.”

Of course, that contemptuous attitude didn’t exactly endear Kimmell, who was 68 years old when he died last week of undisclosed causes and had been out of the marine industry for almost 10 years, to his marine industry colleagues. But Kimmell, who I got to know a bit through spending two often-challenging days of interviews with him at the Donzi headquarters on 21st Street in Sarasota, Fla., for a 2002 Powerboat magazine question-and-answer profile, was—openly and unapologetically—who he was.

Did I say challenging? Interviewing Kimmell was more like two days of mental and verbal sparring. Never have I sat across a desk and asked questions of someone more intelligent and calculating. I tried to avoid being managed or handled by my subject, but to be honest I’m not sure I succeeded.

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