The recreational boating market has known a revolution in the last few years. Once, behind the brand of a shipyard stood a man, the founder, a boat builder who managed to create a company. Cutting-edge figures, genial in some ways, like Michele Franchini or Pietro Baglietto. More often, the shipyard was a family company that rotated around a “patron”, possibly a boat enthusiast, who involved his children and grandchildren in his business.
Then, the global crisis came and not only most of these family-run shipyards were swept over. The historical owners were confronted with harsh reality: to go bankrupt or to sell, to sell all or part of shares, to let new investors enter. The new “patrons” of the boating industry are mainly individuals outside this world who operate in other economic sectors: industrial groups, multinational corporations, holding companies, businessmen, bankers and investment funds. What attracts them towards such an insidious market? The crisis of the field certainly plays a decisive role.
Economy is cyclical and market downturns are always followed by a growth. Moreover, boating industry is appealing, no matter the economic climate. Boats and yachts represent a status symbol tied to luxury, wealth, free time. And there also cases of businessmen who love the sea and decide to invest in the boating industry more for passion than for business. But who are these investors? Let’s see together which industrial and financial groups stand behind the major brands of the Italian and international shipbuilding industry.
Exemplary is the case of the shipyard Ferretti. The Italian giant, one among the world leaders of luxury yachts, was just one step away from the disaster in 2012. Then, Tan Xuguang came. Born in 1961, Tan Xuguang is nicknamed “ Da Dan” within the Chinese business environment, a Mandarin expression used to indicate a highly brave person. Mr. Xuguang is the leader of the Shandong Heavy Industry Group (Shig)-Weichai, one among the largest Chinese societies in the manufacture of diesel engines and heavy-duty vehicles. In 2012, Shig-Weichai bought 86.8% of Ferretti for EUR 374 million ( 178 of which were invested in the capital and 196 in new credit lines). The Italian group has maintained an Italian CEO, Alberto Galassi, but has changed all the management and restarted brilliantly: Ferretti Group closed 2017 with EUR 16.5 million of profits and 1,500 employees.
The same script was written by the prestigious British yacht builder Sunseeker. After a long prosperous period, in 2013 the shipyard registered losses that amounted to many millions of pounds. Wang Jianlin, the third richest man in China and leader of the Dalian Wanda holding company, the largest Chinese real estate society, the first world’s group in film distribution, the owner of “Cirque du Soleil”, “ Club Med” holiday villages, Atletico Madrid and Football League TV rights. In 2013, Wang Jianlin bought Sunseeker for 495 million dollars. Today, it seems that the Chinese society wants to resell the shipyard. Meanwhile, however, Sunseeker has registered a 50% growth in turnover in 2017 compared with 2015.