Lazzara Yachts was purchased by the Avanti Ocean Group, which consists of private investor Geoff Bond and third-generation family members Joe Lazzara and Steve Lazzara.
The new company will do business as Lazzara Custom Yachts and Tampa Marine Services, company president Joe Lazzara said.
The company’s first major capital investment is a sign of the times, when battered overseas markets have driven foreign boatbuilders here seeking opportunities and increased competition for U.S. boatbuilders.
“This was a decision that I thought was necessary going forward in order to compete with all the foreign money we're seeing being poured into competing brands,” Lazzara told Trade Only Today.
“In order to compete at this level, especially now versus 10 years ago, the capital investment [component] is huge,” he said. “We have received many offers from overseas money, just put it at that. We’ve been approached by groups ... but we made a decision that we wanted to remain majority family-owned and in control. Although we don’t have that type of financial backing, one of the benefits is … being able to react to market trends that are happening as fast as they ever have been, and being able to come out with product that reacts to that. We don’t have to go through all these layers of management to get approval.”
It also enables the company to continue its focus on customer service and more personal relationship cultivation, he said.
The investment has brought with it several changes for the company.
Lazzara had recently relocated from the Tampa, Fla., facility where it had operated for decades since Joe Lazzara’s grandfather was with the company.
“A better opportunity arose across the street, so we are still keeping our skilled labor, and we’re still in Tampa, where we want to keep manufacturing for the benefits,” Lazzara said.
The new facility is functional now, but is being upgraded and improved with the help of the capital investment, said Lazzara, who is the son of Dick Lazzara. His cousin Steve Lazzara, now CFO and a Stanford graduate, is the son of Brad Lazzara, who also served as financier of the company. Joe Lazzara handles design, engineering and building.
Lazzara has also been growing its service since the recession ended to include more than just Lazzara Yachts and decided to rebrand that part of the business to let consumers know service extended to other yacht brands, as well.
“One of the challenges the industry faces is, as all these builders come over, the service infrastructure has got to pick up to take care of them,” which is doubly challenged regarding boats built overseas, he said.
Since the United States is becoming more of a top market for builders, “it’s going to be a challenge” to service all the foreign boats. “There’s opportunity for my company. We’re going to continue to take care of Lazzara customers under the Lazzara brand, but under the Tampa brand we will reach out and service other brands because there is obviously demand.”
The company has been investing in one of the largest service yards on Florida’s West Coast, he said, including a new 300-ton lift that can haul boats as long as 170 feet.
Lazzara still uses a factory-direct model domestically, although it is seeking dealer channels overseas, Lazzara said.
The company currently builds boats up to 120 feet, and is also exploring relationships with other manufacturers to build Lazzara-designed boats from 120 to 170 feet.
“We’ll provide engineering, drawings, designs, market them to our clients, and service them, but they will be manufactured and built by a reputable builder or builders overseas,” he said.
Now, Lazzara clients sometimes move to other brands when they have maxed out the size range. Joe Lazzara said he is already working on a 140-foot model.
Lastly, the company will start building more of its Lazzara barges as they grow in popularity. The company recently sold a 90-foot, 40-foot wide barge that was a common stay at boat shows, until it was recently sold. “We’re getting into the business of building more of these of different sizes; that project is already under way.”