In the latest of The Superyacht Group’s Digital Dialogues, Martine Redmayne speaks with John Leonida, PhD Researcher and Consulting Superyacht Industry Advisor, who shares the various lessons he has learnt throughout his career as one of the superyacht market’s most respected lawyers, providing great insight into his frustrations with the industry and how the market can improve and evolve moving forward.

Until his recent retirement from practicing law, Leonida specialised in international marine transactional work and for several years headed Clyde & Co’s superyacht group. Not only has Leonida provided sought-after legal counsel, he has also been one of the market’s most outspoken and prolific market commentators. Today Leonida is completing a PhD at the University of Greenwich entitled The Cultural and Social History of Superyachts from 1918-2018, as well as providing consultative services to the superyacht industry.

“The thing that always frustrated me about the market was the tendency for people to use economic muscle to bully others,” starts Leonida. “I’ve often seen people that are forced into impossible positions or, conversely, those that are seeking to extract some personal financial benefit from a position. Financial motivations too often take precedence over what is legally or ethically correct. I’ve seen far too much of that over the years. However, it has, I hasten to add, diminished over the last 10 years, but it is still there in the background and, sadly, it is part of the culture of the superyacht industry.

“Where so much of what we do is driven by very large sums of money, it is perfectly understandable that, when presented with the opportunity or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, some people will trample over everyone and everything to get to that pot of gold.”

For many years the industry has been focussing on how it can increase the number of UHNWIs that engage with the superyacht market on a variety of levels. Exactly why the market’s UHNWI conversion rate is lacklustre when compared to the growing number of UNWHIs globally, remains up for debate, but more than likely it is a combination of factors ranging from cultural preferences to the perceivably complex and litigious nature of the industry. Leonida, however, is in a unique position to provide potential owners, and indeed the market, with his advice.

“The ideal client is a client that does not feel rushed, or is not rushed, into making final decisions before they have all the information available to them,” continues Leonida. “We have often seen over the years and I have written about this before when a client rings you three weeks before they anticipate closing the deal and say ‘well this is a standard contract isn’t it? So just give it a once over and we will sort out the detail later’, and it all ends horribly.

“The best clients are the ones that are thinking about buying a yacht and come to you possibly 12 months before they are ready to sign the contract. A yacht can cost anywhere between €20m and €200m and let's face it, it's crazy to make a decision of that magnitude in a matter of weeks. Things become litigious when they happen last minute.”

Leonida explores the motivations behind his PhD research, highlighting that he hopes the conclusions found therein will have a positive impact on the superyacht market’s ability to entice new ownership demographics in the industry in years to come.

“I want to find the cultural drivers that cause people to engage with our industry. But, equally, the question is; what are those things that dissuade people from engaging with the industry? What behaviours do we put up with or encourage or indeed do not dismiss that make people who would in other circumstances be perfectly candidates to own a yacht, turn away from the market?” explains Leonida.   

Elsewhere throughout the discussion Redmayne and Leonida discuss the many and various ways in which the market needs to educate itself and its clients to ensure that the industry of the future has learnt and improved on what has gone before.

To hear more about Leonida’s views on the superyacht market, watch the full video here.

The One to One series is a collective campaign for change and industry improvement, and we welcome participants from all sectors. If you would like to take part, or contribute your thoughts, please contact Research Editor Clare Sidwell.

You can view the ever-growing archive of Digital Dialogues here.


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