After a four-year stint as CEO of Camper & Nicholsons International, Michael Payne exited the firm for new pastures upon the arrival of new Asian investors, Lai Sun Development Company Limited, in October 2016.
Payne has since taken a year out of the business and acknowledged, during an exclusive conversation with SuperyachtNews, that from Camper & Nicholsons International’s perspective, “there’s nothing wrong with a few changes” and “changing people can sometimes stimulate better business”.
However, Payne has now announced his return to the industry: in September 2017, he assumed a new role as Managing Director Europe of Northrop & Johnson (N&J), as the company seeks to expand its presence in Europe through the opening of an office in Monaco, which he expects will be operational by December this year, or the beginning of 2018.
“I have a lot of respect for Kevin [Merrigan, CEO of N&J] and I’m hoping to bring a lot to the table for him,” expressed Payne. “I feel fresh from my time off and Kevin has given me a fairly defined mission, which is what I wanted.
"Northrop & Johnson is very strong in the States, but there is room to expand our market share in Europe. There is a very good team on the ground in Antibes, Palma, and in Holland, and soon we will add a Monaco office to the mix. I hope my experience will help to guide them and take us to the next level.”
"I know the benefits of a large brokerage outweigh what a smaller brokerage can offer."
Payne is a seasoned broker, with 35 years of yacht brokerage experience to his name, and he has sold in excess of 200 yachts. As a former captain, and with experience in every division of yachting, from sales brokerage, to retail charter and charter management, to new construction, he has an encyclopaedic understanding of the business.
“My job at Northrop & Johnson is to communicate well and give brokers the tools they need to increase revenue,” Payne explained. “With some of the new start-up companies, I think there’s a lot of money to be made, but I know the benefits of a large brokerage outweigh what a smaller brokerage can offer, although everyone has their niche and it comes down to client relationships.”
Payne believes good brokerage and good business operations come from being able to look into the future and anticipate where you can develop. For example, “guessing new destinations, or making destinations and specifically targeting a certain product to go to those destinations – this is what we did with Jan Verkerk on [MY] Legend.
“With Legend, we developed a new programme because there was nothing available. Jan is an old client of mine for many years. The idea was to give the market a different product, with a new way of chartering. Our charter brokers then had the Arctic and Antarctica to sell. You can always find a market, you just have to look for it.”
Most notably, Payne has noticed, upon his return to brokerage, a “significantly more confident” market. “I met some bankers this morning who said we’re seeing a peak in the United States at the moment; the optimism is noticeable. Despite the recent elections, Brexit and terrorism in Europe — all of which play on people’s minds and whether or not they feel comfortable buying a boat — we’re experiencing a wave of positivity and are hopeful that this market will continue to improve.”