Scottsdale company expands with houseboats

Published online: Nov 22, 2008 News Donna Hogan, East Valley Tribune
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None of the company's 70 destination resorts are actually in Scottsdale, and, in fact, there's no room in Camelback Lake or any of the city's tiny bodies of water for one of Forever Resorts' floating homes.
So why the Scottsdale headquarters?
"We like the weather, the people, the opportunities here," said CEO Rex Maughan.
Besides, there's that little skin-care products company that financed Maughan's recreational tourism empire from a small site near the imposing McCormick Ranch headquarters building he now owns.
Maughan came to the Valley to attend Arizona State University, stayed after graduation and did a few accounting stints in the corporate world before starting his own business. In 1978, he founded Forever Living Products, which makes and sells aloe-based skin-care products and now has 9 million distributors in 137 countries, Maughan said.
Back in 1981, soon after launching his skin-care line, his former employer, Del Webb, decided to sell some resorts, so Maughan bought a couple.
He bought the resorts originally as places to send his Forever Living Products sales reps as a reward or an incentive, he said.
Maughan now has 70 such properties, ranging from marinas in tourism hot spots such as Padre Island, Texas, to lodges in national parks including the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to a 300-year-old castle in Budapest, Hungary, to Southfork Ranch, the Texas-based fictional home of the TV series "Dallas."
Forever Resorts also manages, but does not own, 25 resorts in South Africa nature preserves, Maughan said.
"I decided if I'm going to work hard, I'm going to work in fun places," he said. "But I'm careful to buy things that will make a profit."
He fell into the houseboat business in about the same haphazard way he landed in the resort business. If the resorts began as an enhancement to his skin-products business, the houseboats seemed like a good way to add value to his water-focused resort destinations.
Maughan said he likes to houseboat and waterski, and he assumed others did, too. "Everybody loves to recreate," he said.
So about five years ago, he bought some houseboats to rent out. But renters are too hard on boats built for single ownership, Maughan said, so he designed sturdier versions and had them built to his specifications. Eventually, he decided to manufacture his own.
"We think we have the Rolls-Royce on water," he said.
Maughan said he always has a rental fleet of 200 or more houseboats in the water. He sells a boat or two when he finds an interested buyer, and then he builds more.
His 500th version was shipped to Lake Powell.
Maughan is now looking to make houseboats in South Africa and rent them at his managed resorts there, he said.
Besides the resorts, the skin-care products and the houseboats, Maughan owns a couple of plantations and 25 cattle ranches. None of those are in or near Scottsdale.
But Maughan said he still plans to keep his headquarters in the city and remain one of Scottsdale's biggest but least recognized hometown companies.
"We don't have to be the largest, we just want to be the best," Maughan said.

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