Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

The Denison family ends 70-plus years of ownership legacy with sale of Fort Lauderdale yachting business


End of an Era

Sale ends 70-plus years of family’s yachting ownership in South Florida.

For more than 70 years, one or another member of the Denison family has owned a market-leading marine business in Fort Lauderdale.

Frank Denison, who arrived in the city in 1948, turned boat builder Broward Marine into the county’s largest employer for a time, put America back in the large yacht-building game and spawned so many other boat makers and marine businesses that Fort Lauderdale became a yachting capital. Denison, an irascible leader who near the end of his life fought with family, sold the company at the turn of the century. Denison Yachting, a brokerage founded by his son Kit in 1999 and now led by Kit’s son, Bob, carried forth the Denison ownership legacy. The company has topped the world in superyacht sales for three straight years.

But the Denison era of ownership ended in April with Denison Yachting’s sale to Georgia-based boat retailer OneWater Marine, expanding OneWater’s superyacht sales, yacht charter and ancillary services. “Anytime you make a decision like this, it’s a really hard one,” says Bob Denison, 45, who will stay on as president.

Terms weren’t disclosed. Eight of Denison’s 21 U.S. offices are in Florida. Denison says people who became first-time boat buyers during the pandemic are buying their second boats while their friends and relatives are becoming buyers too. “I’m really bullish on our industry for not just the next six years but the next few decades,” Denison says.


  • West Palm Beach-based food distributor Cheney Bros. broke ground on a 367,427-sq.-ft. distribution center and warehouse that will employ at least 275.
  • Palm Beach International Raceway, the former Moroso Motorsports Park, in Jupiter closed as the 149- acre site changes ownership to a warehouse developer.


  • Miami-based Lennar paid $190 million in a bulk buy of home lots at Freehold Communities’ Arden, an “agrihood” home development west of West Palm Beach.
  • Mast Capital, Boston-based real estate private equity firm Rockpoint and Massachusetts-based developer Spear Group acquired the 18-acre YMCA of the Palm Beaches site in Palm Springs and plan to build 264 garden-style apartments. The YMCA is relocating to Lake Lytal Park nearby.


  • United Launch Alliance hired Aerojet Rocketdyne in Jupiter to build 100 rocket engines to launch Amazon’s Kuiper satellites. The goal of the project is to increase global broadband through a constellation of advanced satellites.


  • TD Bank says it will build a 200-job “technology hub” in South Florida in partnership with the Alan B. Levan Nova Southeastern University Broward Center of Innovation.


  • Noteworthy Hospital Group broke ground on the Whitfield, an ultra-luxury 140-room hotel scheduled to open in 2024 on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Disney Cruise Line will sail in 2023 for the first time from Broward’s Port Everglades seaport following county approval of Bermello, Ajamil & Partners’ design for converting terminal 4 into Disney’s second homeport. The first is Port Canaveral. Disney will base one ship year-round at Port Everglades and, beginning in 2025, station another one there seasonally.
  • London-based investment firm Reuben Bros. paid $42 million to Tollman-Hanley Hotel Group for the 53-room Chesterfield hotel on Palm Beach.


  • A federal judge in Miami sentenced Broward wildlife trader Michael Van Nostrand, 55, to seven months in jail, and his company Strictly Reptiles was fined $150,000 for smuggling illegally harvested Florida turtles to Asia. Prosecutors say collectors were paid to take 3,500 turtles from the wild that were then marketed to Asia as “captive bred.” Van Nostrand was the subject of a best-selling book, The Lizard King, about a federal agent’s investigation of the reptile business.


  • Fort Lauderdale motor yacht sales and charter firm 26 North Yachts opened a second location in Newport, R.I.


Navigating the Waters

With its app that’s a Waze for the waterborne, Fort Lauderdale-based KnowWake hopes to increase its users from 250,000 in May to 700,000 by year-end. The free app gives marine users information — updated by users as with the Waze app — on navigation markers, restricted zones, marinas, boat ramps, route planning, waterside fueling stations and eateries, snorkeling spots and myriad other data points, including tides, weather, wind and depths. Initial revenue comes from advertisers with a plan to reap other sources in the future from e-commerce, in-app purchases and data licensing. Founder Dan Karsko says KnowWake is already one of the world’s largest networks of boaters.