The Setag founder reflects on a highly successful career in the yachting industry – and the inspiration behind Setag Yachts.
The easy option would have been to retire. In my career, I have gone from Technical Engineering Apprentice to CEO. During my 31 years at Princess Yachts, I grew the company from a £30million to a £340million business, with a workforce swelling from 400 to 3,300 people – and leading the process of its purchase by the LVMH group in 2007. When I joined Princess in 1989, there were no bills of material, no planning system and no computers, mobile phones or emails. By the early 1990s we had implemented the business systems to enable us to build 1,000 boats in a single year.
It wasn’t always plain sailing, of course.
We had to steer our way through turbulent waters in the 90s, when the European recession and war in the former Yugoslavia hit the industry hard – and again in the late 2000s. I would probably say that growing the company amidst the turmoil following the financial crisis surrounding Lehman and the subsequent global recession (where we were the only significant player in the industry to avoid a serious decline) was probably my greatest achievement, alongside winning the much-coveted World Super Yacht Awards a number of times (indeed every time we entered).
So, when I decided to step back in 2019, reducing my involvement to a part-time role as advisor to the Chairman, it was with a view to finally enjoying my time in the sun after three decades building Princess Yachts towards record sales and profitability, with the strongest product offering, and represented by the world’s strongest dealer network.
But during this unprecedented period, as Brexit loomed and the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe, I used the time to think about our industry and hit on what I believe is a significant gap in our market. Whilst yacht sizes and costs have increased (the typical pre-owned yacht now varies from £300,000 to £5million in our market sector) there has been until now no qualified service, generating complete confidence for total renovation and refurbishment of pre-owned yachts in this space, similar to that offered in the Mega-yacht market.
This was the inspiration behind launching Setag:
The opportunity to offer a unique, unrivalled luxury refit service for pre-owned yachts, where owners can experience the same level of personal service and expertise they have come to expect from the leading yacht manufacturers.
Crucially, I have been able to draw on the best talent in the business thanks to the friendships I have developed during my time in the industry. When I first began my journey, a number of the extremely talented boat builders at Princess, realising they needed planning and organisational help, befriended me and taught me all aspects of laminating, furniture construction and the complexity of assembly.
This gave me a deep understanding and respect for the craftsmanship that lies at the heart of our industry. But at the same time, despite the rivalry of being in a four-horse race amongst some of Europe’s strongest builders (Sealine, Fairline, Sunseeker and Princess Yachts), I also developed an appreciation of the skills and innovation that our competitors brought to the table. For instance, when Fairline launched the Squadron range, it was in my opinion, the single greatest move in our industry – an enormous leap in design and quality of finish. This in turn spurred on myself and my forever mentor David King, as we developed our own new and exciting V class range and in leading the way on flybridge development.
Today, I’m proud to say that Setag can now deliver an unparalleled level of service and expertise in the pre-owned market, working alongside extremely talented colleagues from my one-time adversaries, offering our services to Princess, Sunseeker and Fairline owners.
This is a unique opportunity to deliver a refit service that allows you to personalise and refresh the interiors of your treasured yacht, as well as updating all technical functions through the expertise of our team of specialists who designed, engineered and built these three great brands for decades.
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