FLIBS 2019: The Honeymooners

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Raphael Sauleau, Fraser CEO (left), and Chuck Cashman, MarineMax chief revenue officer, discuss the Fraser acquisition after three months.

Raphael Sauleau, Fraser CEO (left), and Chuck Cashman, MarineMax chief revenue officer, discuss the Fraser acquisition after three months.

At a press event during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show yesterday, the principals in MarineMax’s acquisition of Fraser Yachts described the nearly four-month-old relationship as a “honeymoon.”

“When we go through acquisitions, we look at two things,” said Chuck Cashman, chief revenue officer for MarineMax, who headed up the Fraser purchase. “One is whether the company is healthy financially, and the second is a culture that fits with ours.”

Cashman said the Fraser purchase, which took place in July, fulfilled both of the requirements. Fraser has sold 39 yachts and superyachts so far this year and, according to the company, has had its best year ever in the charter market.

It was certainly a different type of acquisition for MarineMax. Monaco-based Fraser has a global outlook with a Euro-centric culture, and its brokerage and charter yachts start where MarineMax’s offerings end.

At the Fraser booth, Cashman said that was one of the attractive things about Fraser for MarineMax. “The yachts sitting around us go beyond the limits of what we’ve historically done,” he said. “This allows us to move our clients into Fraser’s channel, which would be impossible to duplicate otherwise.”

The Fraser and MarineMax teams.

The Fraser and MarineMax teams.

Cashman pointed to a preowned Burger at the display’s dock called To-Kalon, which had been listed by MarineMax for nearly a year. “The owner was getting a little impatient because he was afraid it was too big for us to sell,” Cashman said. “Fraser had an opening at the last minute, so we were able to move it into their display. The owner was thrilled. It’s one of the unexpected synergies that has come out of the relationship.”

Cashman said the merger of the two companies combines MarineMax’s reach, “which is pretty extensive, with the pedigree of Fraser, which has a massive presence” in the global yacht and superyacht market.

“I was pretty excited about it starting out, but 90 days into it, it’s better than we could have ever imagined,” Cashman said. “I can think of 25 legitimate synergies between the two companies.”

Raphael Sauleau, Fraser CEO, repeated the thoughts about synergies between the two companies. “What surprised us most is how fast they actually happened,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing the way the MarineMax team embraced working with Frasers. “We think it’s going to be extremely beneficial for both companies.”

Unlike previous MarineMax acquisitions, Fraser Yachts will run as a standalone subsidiary, with Sauleau and his team in charge. The company has 150 employees in 21 offices around the world. Sauleau described fiscal 2018 as a “very good year.”

At FLIBS, Fraser announced that it would offer six free months of yacht management services for clients with yachts over 70 feet. “Often a current or returning client buying a larger yacht wants to have an idea of the running costs,” Sauleau said. “This allows us to give them a forecast and gives us another sales tool to distinguish us from competitors. Once they get a taste of the crew management, we hope they will plan to keep it.”

“Our competitors can’t touch that,” Cashman added.

Fraser, previously owned by Azimut-Benetti, will now be overseen by a company with a similar corporate structure, rather than a shipyard. Sauleau said being owned by a yacht builder left the impression that Fraser would automatically steer clients for new builds toward Benetti. Fraser went to great pains to make sure that it operated independently of Azimut-Benetti, Sauleau said, but Fraser lost potential yacht management projects because of the perception.

“Now we have multiple management projects, with one boat sold and four under contract,” he said. “Oddly, our business with Benetti has significantly improved. We’ve done more business with them than in many years.”

Sauleau says MarineMax’s U.S. network would also help Fraser’s yacht and superyacht sales, since Americans comprise 60 percent of its clients. He added that the focus of brokerage yachts would shift to the United States this year, since brokerage sales are down by 15 percent in Europe.

Would the now-happy relationship become strained during a downturn?

“We look at our business as spokes in a wheel,” Cashman said. “The more diversified you are, the more resistant you are to economic pressure. If the big-boat business falls under pressure, we’ll have the resources to provide to Fraser to move forward. The same could apply if smaller boats come under pressure. We’re always working very hard for diversity and ways to improve it. It just makes us a stronger business.”

For now, the honeymoon continues. Cashman has told Trade Only Today multiple times how excited he is about the Fraser acquisition.

“We’re honored to be part of this phenomenal group,” he said. “The benefit will be to our customers. It’s the most unique and unexpected of partnerships, but we think it could change the industry a bit.”

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