Years ago, Robert Schoellhorn, owner of luxury bus-conversion manufacturer Marathon Coach Inc., did not think the RV lifestyle was for him, he told The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore.
But after his wife persuaded him to try it, the former CEO of drug company Abbott Laboratories liked it so much that he eventually bought the Coburg, Ore. converter of Prevost bus shells.
Now, Schoellhorn, 75, owns the company and his son, Steve, 34, Marathon’s executive vice president, is responsible for day-to-day operations.
Marathon converts around 60 Prevost shells per year, including about 40 “on speculation,” Steve Schoellhorn, a former commodities trader, told the newspaper.
Marathon Coach’s 45-foot diesel-powered units are filled with high-end amenities and sell for around $1.5 million each. Because the company’s customers come from around the world, Steve Schoellhorn said, its business is “not recession-proof but we’re pretty recession-resistant.”
Robert Schoellhorn become involved with the RV lifestyle after he retired from the drug company in 1990 and his wife persuaded him to buy a 37-foot gas engine Class A motorhome, he told The Register-Guard. But he felt the gas-engine model was under-powered and, after spending a cold winter night near Yellowstone National Park, he became aware its furnace was inadequate.
At that point, the elder Schoellhorn wanted to drive the Class A to Palm Springs, but his wife, again, persuaded him to drive to Oregon to visit Marathon’s plant.
“I said I didn’t want to buy a bus – but two days later, I owned one,” he said.
It was during a later visit to the Marathon factory that the elder Schoellhorn got acquainted with Marathon’s original owners, Herb Nill and Tom Nestell, and he became interested in the bus-conversion business.
At first, Nill and Nestell wanted Schoellhorn to loan them money, but the elder Schoellhorn decided to buy 23% of Marathon, and now he owns 93% of the firm.
And the RV lifestyle has become a Schoellhorn family business. While Steve runs Marathon in Oregon, his brother, Robert, 42, a former air traffic controller at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, now runs Outdoor Resorts of America, a chain of luxury RV resorts.
The elder Schoellhorn said his doubts about the RV lifestyle were erased long ago. “It’s a lifestyle that makes many new, solid friendships with people you then see year after year,” he told The Register-Guard. “I’ve spent lot of time traveling by air and living in hotels, and with a coach, you can stay as long as you want and not have to unpack.”