Senator sells ship repair company, Davis Boat Works

20 June 2015


Robert McCabe
The Virginian-Pilot
Newport News, VA, 20 June 2015

Davis Boat Works, a 57-year-old ship-repair facility in Newport News, has been sold to Portsmouth-based Fairlead Integrated, state Sen. Frank Wagner, who owned Davis, announced Friday.

The sale was effective Thursday. Terms were not disclosed.

Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, bought the shipyard in 1996 and served as its president and chief executive officer for nearly 20 years.

“I will continue to advocate for the ship-repair industry; it is the industrial and manufacturing backbone of the Hampton Roads economy,” Wagner said in a statement.

“I am on to the next chapter of my life, but I will always fondly recall my time as CEO at Davis Boat Works.”

Jerry Miller, owner and CEO of Fairlead, said he wasn’t searching for a shipyard to buy, but acquiring Davis was a “good opportunity.”

“It gives us waterfront access,” he said. “It was kind of a natural.”

The deal marks the second time in 26 years that Miller has bought a business from Wagner.

The two were Naval Academy classmates who launched Earl Industries, named for Wagner’s stepfather, in the mid-1980s.

Miller bought out Wagner’s interest in the company in 1989.

Over roughly three decades, Miller built Earl, based in Portsmouth, into a ship-repair standout that employed up to 1,200 people and won hundreds of millions of dollars in Navy contracts.

Three years ago, General Dynamics acquired Earl’s Portsmouth- and Florida-based ship-repair units, along with its coatings division.

The two remaining Earl units – its Integrated Power and Controls division in Chesapeake and the manufacturing division in Portsmouth – became Miller IMG.

Last year, they were rebranded as Fairlead Integrated.

The Davis yard will become Fairlead Boat Works, the company’s third division.

It will be run by retired Navy Vice Adm. David Architzel, whose career included stints as program executive officer of aircraft carriers, commander of Naval Air Systems Command and commanding officer of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, Miller said.

Architzel said his position with Fairlead grew out of a consulting role, adding that he sees the job as a “tremendous opportunity.”

Fairlead already has been involved at the Davis yard, which has roughly 75 employees, for the past couple of months, Miller said.

There will be no big changes for the workers, Architzel said.

“It’s about taking the workforce we have and building on it.”

The yard specializes in the repair of smaller commercial vessels such as tugboats, along with Navy and Coast Guard vessels that do not have permanently assigned crews, such as landing craft and barges.


This article was originally posted in The Virginian-Pilot,