When Darrell Bentz was 64 years old, a sudden onset of pulmonary fibrosis forced him to undergo a lung transplant and retire from Bentz Boats, the company he founded.

His son Bryan Bentz, was in his 30s at the time and already worked at the company. He was able to step in and successfully oversee day-to-day operations.

But the challenges of that unexpected transition stuck with him, said Bentz, now 50, prompting him to bring a partner into the family business this year.

“A few years ago, I started thinking about what do you do with it,” he said.

Carl Pottala, 34, from Grangeville, now has a minority ownership stake in the business and at some point in the future will acquire the majority portion still held by Bentz.

“When that is, I don’t know,” Bentz said.

It made sense to bring on Pottala for a number of reasons. For starters, Bentz’s own children, two adult daughters, live in Montana and have no interest in the business.

Until joining Bentz Boats at the beginning of this year, Pottala had never worked in the welded aluminum boat industry, but he had a lot of experience with Bentz products. He piloted boats manufactured by Bentz on the Snake River as a guide and outfitter, and had taken more than one hull manufactured by Bentz and finished it on his own.

He also managed a construction company, so he understood some of the nuts and bolts of running a business, such as how to create budgets, bid projects and oversee employees.

Pottala’s goal is to continue Bentz’s tradition of manufacturing high-quality boats.

“They have such a great reputation all around the world,” he said.

Bentz’s hope is the agreement between him and Pottala sets the stage for the company to have solid leadership into the future.

“My goal is for Bentz Boats to continue past me,” he said.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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