STURGEON BAY (AP) - A former officer of Peterson Builders Inc. told workers Monday he has reached an agreement in principle to buy the company's marine and industrial division.

Terms were not disclosed.

Business prospects indicate employment could double from 150 to 300 in a few months, buyer Larry Maples told workers. The deal could be finalized within three weeks.

Maples encouraged Peterson workers to apply with his new company, which he has named Poseidon Shipbuilding LLC after the mythical Greek god of the seas.

"Base pay rates will also be higher for many of you," he said.

Skilled craft employees will receive a $12.50 per hour base rate with a 5 percent performance award program planned. Poseidon eventually will be owned by employees, he said.

Peterson's primary goal was keeping manufacturing jobs in Sturgeon Bay, said James Stawicki, chief operating officer.

Ellsworth Peterson, second-generation owner and chief executive officer, announced June 16 that the 67-year-old company was for sale. Peterson, 72, is retiring.

Maples, 49, is a Sturgeon Bay native and was Peterson's vice president of marketing and finance until last May.

Peterson will retain ownership of its spare parts and procurement business in Sturgeon Bay and Virginia Beach, Va., the Quarterdeck Marina here, and a ship repair yard in Ingleside, Texas.

The private transaction is being

financed primarily by an unidentified Greek citizen who has ordered a 177-foot "mega-yacht," a 24-month project, Maples said.

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Poseidon initially will subcontract

Peterson's backlog of three 48-foot patrol boats and a crane barge, Maples said.

The company has signed contracts for four, 145-foot "Tri-Cat" catamarans for U.S. Water Jet Express, a Connecticut firm. The company will use the 54 mph, triple-hull boats to ferry passengers from New York's La Guardia Airport to Bridgeport and New London, Conn.

Ellsworth Peterson said Peterson Builders was at a crossroads because of a declining U.S. defense budget and subsidies to foreign shipbuilders.

The company's work force has dropped from about 1,000 in 1992 to about 150, Stawicki said. Annual sales once hit $150 million, but slipped to $54 million last year.

Maples said Poseidon would install new computer systems, robotics and other technology. A 401(k) employee payroll savings plan and maintained or improved health insurance programs are in the works, he said.

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