Joey and Steve’s fathers, Brad and Dick built the Lazzara brand in the 1990s to great success before the difficulties of the recent recession set in. Now, Joey Lazzara, the company's lead designer says it’s his turn to take the brand forward.
“It’s exciting; we’ve been working on this takeover for some time,” he explained. “Lazzara has been a privately owned company for almost 30 years, which is pretty rare in this industry, so though we’re a start-up, we’ve got a head start.”
The new ownership company, Avanti Ocean Group is co-owned by Joey and Steve, who was shipyard manager and now CFO, as well as local Tampa businessman and Lazzara customer Geoff Bond, who is president of the new company, Lazzara Custom Yachts and the service and repair business Tampa Marine Services.
“We needed a strong business partner to join us; it’s not just about the financial investment, it’s also about the knowledge and experience of running companies in the Tampa area,” Lazzara said.
“He’s bringing his expertise in running a business day to day and growing that business in a solid, reasonable way.”
Lazzara confirms the new company has purchased over $20 million worth of inventory, including all of the Lazzara molds and tooling for the 65’, 70’, 85’, 92’ and partial 120’ models.
“We’ve taken the name and we’re starting fresh to rebuild the brand,” Lazzara says. “We’re going back to the basics of what we do best.”
“We’re adapting to the new realities and rebuilding this brand into a successful business based on good design, engineering, and after-sales service.”
Lazzara says the new company is debt-free and will soon be launching a new product range between 60’ and up to 120’.
“We have a different business model now from what we previously had,” he said.
“We’re leveraging a lot of service and repair work, which we know from experience is pretty much recession proof: Steve and I have had the luxury of watching the evolution of the business from within over the last 15 years, so we know where the cash is and where it’s not.”
Crucially, the new company is going to chase clients in the size ranges above their own manufacturing capabilities.
“Once owners of our largest yachts want to move up in size, they have to go elsewhere: they head to Benetti or Heesen or Feadship,” Lazzara said.
“To retain these valuable customers, we’re working on new designs we’ll engineer and have built at other yards.”
A former Lazzara client had approached the Chinese builder IAG for a new yacht in the 42m range; Lazzara has been in discussions to provide exterior styling and engineering specifications for the project.
Lazzara said he is considering licensing partnerships with shipyards for the use of the Lazzara name along with yacht design and engineering—enabling the company to compete for international yacht customers at the 36m to 50m size range.
“The name Lazzara brings brand credibility to a new build, because we stand behind our design and engineering and we’re very well known among our customer base.”
“We have a client list that has followed over 170 previous Lazzara yachts which have changed hands roughly every two years, giving us a list of about 2,400 people who have owned a Lazzara yacht.”
“Right now we have six Lazzara owners building boats between 36m and 45m with different builders: they’re moving up in the size ranges and we’re losing the customer.”
Lazzara says he, Steve and Geoff are currently evaluating three sales strategies, considering whether to sell direct and hire their own brokers, or team up with a brokerage house, or a hybrid that would see brokers operating outside of the US, with direct sales within.
“We don’t want to be the biggest company in the world; we just want to build four to six high-quality yachts a year and really take care of our customers, Lazzara said.
“We want to make a healthy living for our employees and build a good culture within the business; we’ve done this to rebuild an amazing brand.”