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Investor buys minority stake in Lazzara Yachts

Lazzara Yacht Corp. received a capital investment from The Crest Group LLC, and the private-equity firm now has a minority ownership stake in the company, officials said.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Rich Lazzara, vice president of the privately held family company, said the move will allow the builder to grow its business in terms of product offerings and distribution centers.

"We want to be able to build a greater variety of boats - from 50 to 130 feet," he told Soundings Trade Only. "Some models that we'll be coming out [with] over the next 24 months, it will help fund those new developments. Secondly, it will help develop expansion not only from a facility standpoint, but an international and domestic distributor standpoint."

In addition to the newest Lazzara model launched last fall, the 76-foot Breeze, Lazzara plans to launch five new models in the next 24 months. This will help meet demand as Lazzara enters new markets around the world.

The majority of the companies Lazzara competes against have more model offerings, as well as dealers, and this capital investment will help Lazzara stay competitive, Lazzara said.

"The capital search had been something we'd been doing for the last seven to eight months, of which we talked to dozens of people, including other companies that are in the industry and some that are out," he said. "One of the main factors that was important to us was to maintain control and majority equity. So when you start talking about that, it narrows the opportunities for capital."

Enrico Scarda, managing partner of The Crest Group, was interested in being part owner of a boat company and helping to raise capital for Lazzara to grow. The Crest Group had not previously been involved in the boating industry, Lazzara said.

"We couldn't be happier to be able to join the Lazzara team," Scarda said in a statement. "It is very obvious that the Lazzara family is dedicated to the continued innovation and development of exceptional yachts and we are glad to be able to be a part of it. We expect the newly structured company to continue the success that Lazzara Yachts has enjoyed in the past."

Lazzara said 2010 was a down year for the company, but with this investment there are hopes that 2011 and beyond will be improved. One thing that has hurt the company is not having a wider range of models.

Lazzara currently offers boats from 76 to 120 feet, but offering additional models should make the company more attractive to dealers and boaters. The company also plans to open a New York sales and service facility and could expand into other areas of the country in the future.

Lazzara has eight international dealers, but wants to triple or quadruple that number in the next few years. Dealers, Lazzara said, want a boat line they can bring a client "up through." By producing more models, the company will be more attractive to potential dealers around the world.

The company, Lazzara said, has received inquiries from places such as North Africa that were not on the radar even a few years ago, and places such as Brazil and Hong Kong are growing markets. The capital investment will help Lazzara launch in those areas of the world.

"For the last 20 years we've had a family-owned, primarily U.S.-focused business model," Lazzara Yachts chairman Dick Lazzara said in a statement. "It's time to broaden our horizons and bring the superior Lazzara quality, style and innovation to the entire world. I couldn't be more optimistic about the direction we're headed and what the future holds for us at Lazzara."

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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