Don Aronow – Powerboat Builder to Kings, Presidents, and Drug Smugglers

As powerboat builder to the most powerful people in the world, Donald Aronow counted among his clients the Shah of Iran, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Malcolm Forbes, and George HW Bush. "We talked about fast boats, fast horses, fast women and he was wonderful and a lot of fun to be around," said Bush senior of Aronow. After making his money in the 1950s construction industry in New Jersey, Aronow moved to Miami in 1961 and turned his boat racing hobby into multiple flourishing boat building businesses. His new designs and innovative technology brought his creations not only into the toy chests of the wealthy but made his incredibly fast speedboats a popular choice among cocaine smugglers.

Drug smuggling and cocaine-related crime dominated the news throughout the early 1980s as South Florida and specifically Miami became a major cocaine transshipment point for drugs to enter the United States. Aronow was at the epicenter of it all. He founded and sold multiple boat-building companies along Miami's 188th St. which became known as Thunderboat Row. His boats were so fast that they could outrun the US Customs Service. The US government simply hired Aronow to design and build faster boats for them.

Aronow and the US government closed a $ 2.5 million deal for 13 high-speed catamarans called Blue Thunders at the same time his company USA Racing Team was taking orders from clients who would pay with suitcases stuffed with $ 150,000 and ask for specialist requests like secret compartments and hollowed-out hulls. In the "War on Drugs", Aronow was supplying both sides and making a killing. It was ultimately one of the last deals Aronow would make before he himself was killed.

After scoring the Blue Thunder contract, Aronow sold his company to old friend Ben Kramer, a powerboat racer and convicted marijuana smuggler who had just been released from prison and alleged to have connections with Columbian drug cartels. Kramer was forced to sell the company back to Aronow after the government cancelled their order upon learning who Aronow had sold the company to. Once Aronow was back in control, the government reinstated their order plus 20 additional boats. He made an enemy in Kramer and was to pay the ultimate price. While driving his white Mercedes along Thunderboat Row, a dark Lincoln town car driving the other way pulled up beside him and its driver rolled down the window and pumped 6 shots into Aronow, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.


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