Bradford Marine, the Floridian refit specialist, was acquired by John and Michael Kelly’s entity, Fort Lauderdale Yacht Harbour, LLC, in January 2019. Upon purchasing Bradford Marine, the Kellys committed to providing the facilities with a number of new enhancements as part of their mission to support Broward County’s $8.9 billion boating industry by preserving and optimizing its unique, waterfront marine real estate.
While John and Michael both previously worked for companies external to the yachting industry: John, formerly the Executive Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Crown Castle International, and Michael, formerly Senior Vice President of Finance, Strategy, they are very much a boating family. SuperyachtNews spoke exclusively with John and Michael at FLIBS 2019 about the ways in which the Kellys' passion for the yachting lifestyle propels their investment in, and dedication to, the growth of the business became clear.
Despite living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the past 20 years, “we’ve always been a boating family,” began John. “We thoroughly enjoy spending time on the water; it is a tremendous pastime and a great stress reliever. We would bring our boat down through the rivers from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale where we would then get it serviced. Although she’s 70ft, she has all the same systems that the largest megayachts do, so we bring her to the US service epicentre.
“What we recognised was within the business of shipyards and dockage, the shipyards side of the equation has to be protected. [Fort Lauderdale] is the yachting capital of the world, but, the debate on this land was that its either going to continue as a shipyard or because the land is on the water, it’s going to be converted into a high-end condominium with dockage in front. If all you’re focused on is the highest current return on investment, as opposed to something that can return on investment in years to come, then that can be appealing, but then we all lose something that is what we’re all passionate about.
"We are protecting the real estate so that it is used for the yachting industry and the shipyard remains" - John Kelly, CEO - Bradford Marine
“We asked ourselves, ‘How do we support something that we’ve been passionate about ourselves as a family?’ That’s why we bought [Bradford Marine]. We are protecting the real estate so that it is used for the yachting industry and the shipyard remains,” John continued.
The father and son duo have a professional background spanning more than 50 years, with experience in the management and development of speciality real estate, finance, and mortgage services. With an understanding of the first-hand needs and challenges of boaters, John and Michael are revitalizing and investing in both Bradford Marine facilities; Fort Lauderdale and Freeport, Grand Bahama, to enhance the company’s short and long-term dockage, yacht repair and maintenance, and brokerage sales. John and Michael will also oversee the implementation of new technologies and major facility upgrades, with the goal of creating a hub for the yachting community to gather and connect. Initial enhancements include; new crew amenities, dockage, parking and landscaping to create an inviting, vibrant, and dynamic facility for captains, crew, and boat owners.
“Growing up we spent every weekend down at the marina so it was our neighbourhood,” recalled Michael. “We knew the boaters next to us on the dock better than our neighbours at home! It was a community, and that’s what we want to keep at the marina: the sense of community. From a Captain and Crew perspective, to owners and guests, we want everyone to feel like they’re coming home. We are recreating what we’ve always loved about yachting, and hoping to make the owner experience easier. A large component of these yachts is all the maintenance that is required,” said Michael.
“Because of where the yard is located, there is some clean up that needs to take place. It is definitely a shipyard, but there are a whole host of changes that we can implement. For example, the feel of when people are docking there,” added John, commenting on the all-important atmosphere and essential amenities of the yard for those taking out 12-month, 6-month or 3-month dockage plans to keep their boat in a specific spot while they are not using it.
Beyond the amenity side of the equation, John and Michael are having a 10GB data broadband service delivered to the yard, which is currently under construction. “Captains and crew are conducting business [via broadband from the yard], and as yachts are becoming smarter, there is a significant amount of software download that takes place,” John continued. “The yard today has eight Wi-Fi access points, and we’re putting in 48, so that everybody is in a position to be streaming video or conducting business, but also downloading software. This could be viewed as ‘hospitality’ or ‘amenity’, but we view it as critical for the actual running of the yacht."
John and Michael will also be updating the 47-acre yard in Freeport and improving the amenities there. “At the Freeport yard we are also very focused on the service side of things, from propeller repair to shaft repair, we’ve also got a 12,000ton dry dock, and next door is Grand Bahama shipyard where we are able to use their dry docks which have the capacity to lift cruise ships,” commented John. Yachts up to 122m have reportedly visited the Freeport yard, illustrating that it is able to accommodate some of the world’s largest yachts.
“At our Fort Lauderdale marina, there are lots of opportunities for Captain and Crew to spend time there,” said John, which is arguably a marina’s perfect business model, and the perfect balance for a superyacht: being provided with strong service infrastructure as well as a marina for the guests and the owner to enjoy. “We also want to look at ensuring we are introducing 3D printing, because we are also working with a lot of older, classic yachts such as some older Feadships, and you can’t always find all the right parts.
“We have 93 employees in Fort Lauderdale, 72 in Freeport, and 165 skilled craftsmen across the business that we can commit to timelines and make sure that we are hitting them” - Michael Kelly, President and COO - Bradford Marine
“Ultimately, we want to reduce the total cost of ownership,” John continued, and Bradford Marine’s in-house tradespeople allow for them to control the process and avoid surprise costs for an owner further to a refit or service. “We have 93 employees in Fort Lauderdale, 72 in Freeport, and 165 skilled craftsmen across the business that we can commit to timelines and make sure that we are hitting them,” added Michael.
“Time is very valuable to every owner, especially for these yachts which are being used for a few weeks out of the year, so we have to make sure the boats are ready for that time” John concluded.
Additional highlights of Bradford Marine’s multi-phase project include expanded transient marina services, a newly upgraded dockside electric service and 24/7, year-round security personnel.
As part of the new vision of Bradford Marine, the facility will now also offer event programming each month to create a sense of place and community for captains and crew members. Events include: Monthly Third Thursday Happy Hour for captains and crew members, and the Monthly First Friday Breakfast, also for captains and crew members, reaffirming the focus on community.
If you like reading our Editors' premium quality journalism on SuperyachtNews.com, you'll love their amazing and insightful opinions and comments in The Superyacht Report. If you’ve never read it, click here to request a sample copy - it's 'A Report Worth Reading'. If you know how good it is, click here to subscribe - it's 'A Report Worth Paying For'.