How to sell a giant
SuperyachtNews speaks with Paolo Casani, CEO of Camper & Nicholsons, about the sale of Lady Moura…
The sale of 100m-plus superyachts can be a notoriously labour intensive and slow process. How then was the team at Camper & Nicholsons able to sell 105m Lady Moura in a year and a half? SuperyachtNews speaks with Paolo Casani, CEO of Camper & Nicholsons, about the $125million asking-price sale of Lady Moura.
“Firstly, Lady Moura is an incredibly special yacht, she is an icon. Built 31 years ago in 1990 in Germany by Blohm & Voss she was one of the first truly iconic megayachts,” stars Casani. “She had been owned by the same person since her delivery in 1990 and, as such, she has always been an incredibly private vessel. However, even with few people having seen her interior, she has remained an icon of Monaco and the yachting world. Lady Moura, therefore, was a very interesting proposition for us in terms of finding the right potential buyers.”
According to Casani, the key to selling large superyachts is determining the right pool of potential buyers to pitch to. For a project like Lady Moura, which is rich in superyachting history, it was important to find a buyer that appreciated her story, her nature and her features. If an owner was interested in speed and performance, for instance, it is clear that Lady Moura would not be the project for them. However, Casani is also candid in his appreciation that, when it comes to selling such a large project, no small amount of luck is also required.
“Fortunately, we got in touch with the right buyer who fell in love with Lady Moura from the first night he spent on board,” continues Casani. “He loved the way the owner had built the yacht and had found some innovative features, even 30 years ago, many of which are still being applied on most megayachts that have been built in recent years.”
Typically, when discussing the brokerage market, one quickly finds out that there is a near obsession with projects that are considered new or nearly new. Indeed, after five years old or so the interest in once premium vessels tends to drop off. Given that Lady Moura is now 31 years old, it begs the question: why she was such an attractive proposition for the right buyer?
“First of all, she was built to an amazingly high standard. However, credit has to go to the fact she was owned by a single incredibly passionate owner. There have been plenty of ongoing investments to ensure that she has been kept up to date and well maintained,” explains Casani. “She has always been maintained excellently, but this also has much to do with her crew. Lady Moura has 60-plus crew and most of them have been working on board for several years. Many of them have been there for 10, 15, 20 years, they are loyal to the yacht and know exactly how to maintain her condition. So much so, when the new owner bought Lady Moura, the first thing that he wanted to achieve was to keep the whole crew on board to keep the continuity and the feel of the yacht.”
Anyone who understands the superyacht market understands the importance of a knowledgeable, longstanding crew. It is for good reason that articles are written so frequently about the difficulty of maintaining an excellent crew. Owners who understand the importance of crew will not only guarantee themselves a more enjoyable experience on board, they may also find that keeping the right crew will pay dividends when a yacht comes to be sold. Large superyachts, especially those that are 100m-plus, are extremely complex assets and maintaining them to the highest standards requires a crew with intimate knowledge of the vessel.
Ignoring those superyachts on the market that are simply unattractive to all buyers, generally speaking, the larger the vessel the longer it takes to sell. That Lady Moura was sold in a year and a half represents a minor miracle and speaks volumes of the quality of the vessel and the effectiveness of Camper & Nicholsons' pricing in this instance. How, then, did Lady Moura sell so quickly?
“The more you grow in size, the more you grow in price. So, at the top end of the market, the pool of potential buyers becomes much smaller, that is the main reason that large superyachts usually take longer to sell. However, the way you sell large superyacht is different compared to more general yacht brokerage,” continues Casani. “There is a far greater focus on researching potential buyers and refining the cluster of people to get in touch with. This takes time and planning before spreading the message and engaging in the traditional brokerage activities. This is part of the reason that large superyachts stay on the market for a long time, the approach of the brokers is sometimes wrong. More time needs to be spent on the planning and strategy.”
Any broker worth their salt will tell you how important pricing and speed of sale is. The longer a yacht is on the market, the more it costs the owner and the more price reductions there are, the more it becomes clear that the initial pricing was incorrect. There are, of course, instances where superyachts are overpriced purely because the owner has no genuine immediate interest in selling the vessel, but would be willing to listen to an offer they couldn’t refuse. Equally, there will be times when owners run into financial difficulty and a fire sale ensues giving perhaps a warped view of market value. Nevertheless, the speed of a sale can say much about a projects pricing and the relationship between the broker and the owner. According to Casani, Lady Moura represents the quickest sale of a 100m-plus superyacht over the last 10 years.
“Speed and price are of paramount importance for many different reasons. First of all, if you start with the right price you will most likely start to collect interest immediately from the right people. If you start with a very high asking price, knowing that the market will never accept this price, you waste your first sales activities because at the end of the day you won't be attracting the right buyers. Everything in the market has its price and sometimes it isn’t easy to convey that price to the owner because their conception of a yacht's value is biased because of its personal value. However, the market is the market and it will manage the deal by drawing out the actual value,” comments Casani. “In the case of Lady Moura, we got lucky because we got in touch with very intelligent people and, from the beginning, had a very open, transparent and constructive dialogue, which helped us do our job properly.”
Casani further credits the fact that Lady Moura was sold in house for the success of the sale, explaining that the international network that Camper & Nicholsons has, as well as the internal legal support, made the process far easier than it might otherwise have been.
“When you have a competent organisation in the middle of a deal, with lawyers and with access, it makes the process a lot smoother. The deal was very much helped by this situation. In the future, when it comes to large complex deals, the one-man-band approach will simply not be sufficient anymore,” concludes Casani.
The swift sale of Lady Moura certainly shows what can be achieved when the unique processes of selling a large superyacht are followed in conjunction with an open and honest dialogue with both the buyer and the seller, as well as highlighting, once again, just how important crew can be to the overall superyachting experience.
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