In an exclusive conversation with SuperyachtNews.com, Ziriakus explained that a key focus of his new role would be expanding both the scope of the business’ global ambition, and the bottom line figures. His appointment, he says, is due to the continued growth of the N&J operation, and he will act as a central point of contact for all of its offices. “I’m taking over the whole business side of Northrop & Johnson operations going forward,” explained the new COO. “Company owner, Kevin Merrigan, with partners Bruce Leffers and Hank Halsted, has spent the last decade growing the company organically and they've done exceptionally well. Now N&J has reached the point where additional top level support is needed, hence the founders will focus a bit more on sales, while I concentrate on business affairs for all of our international offices.”
Ziriakus assumes this role after a fairly meteoric rise through the ranks, having worked first for Fraser, then N&J and then Camper & Nicholsons in senior marketing roles. But this new role, he explains, requires far more than sales and marketing skills. “It’s about all of the business units — all of the operational units to ultimately expand globally.” On this last point Ziriakus says the company is ready to launch its assault on the European market. Up to now they have operated one office on the continent but his appointment will trigger an ‘aggressive’ attempt to grow its European market share.
This European move will not detract from the consolidation of the company’s “solid” US market share however, which Merrigan and his team will continue to grow organically. But Ziriakus has his sights set on Europe, as “the next frontier”. He will also aim to continue to invest in the Asian market, where it is fair to say N&J has taken a lead among brokerage houses historically.
And on the sales market as a whole, Ziriakus is in defiant mood. “Americans are back!”, he exclaims. He says he has seen the US sales market growing from strength to strength over the last 12 months. This has been seen publicly, he adds, in the recovery and subsequent surge in the stockmarkets but in brokerage terms, “You could feel it with the number of charter and sale enquiries coming in,” he says. “The last quarter of 2013 was one of the best quarters of the last five years — a lot of inventory moved. US buyers are coming back and there’s a very positive vibe. There are far more active charter enquiries at various boat shows and our sales brokers are giving quite a few more tours. We certainly can feel it picking up.”
Of Europe though, he is not as positive about the scale of the recovery:
“On a global scale, I’d say there’s a positive uptrend. Europe is making a slight turnaround, but I don’t think it is coming on as strongly as other places around the world, due to the fact that there are still issues that need tending to in their own respective markets.
“The US, on the other hand, seems to be moving forward faster. The US hit the recession first and Europe followed, but as a capitalist society, the US seems to be bouncing back at an exceptional rate — we can feel a big push in the States.”
However, despite this perceived disparity in market movement, Europe will comprise a primary target for Ziriakus, alongside Asia. “In Europe we have that one foothold currently but I think you will see more N&J offices emerging within one to two years because it remains one of the biggest markets for sales and charter.
"And in some ways, it seems that the market is saturated with brokerage houses, but there is always opportunity to make your company stand out and take the market share that is up for grabs. There are individuals who want to buy and charter yachts and no one is reaching them yet. Northrop & Johnson is looking to break into those untapped resources."