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New Groupe Beneteau CEO discusses corporate structure

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Groupe Beneteau yesterday announced the appointment of Jérôme de Metz as its new CEO, replacing Hervé Gastinel. De Metz, who has had a long career as an entrepreneur and private-equity specialist, joined Groupe Beneteau in February as chairman of its executive board. His appointment, along with the formation of two new departments — Operational Excellence and Product Strategy — signals a sea change in how the company will operate internally.

“I’ve helped developed more than 100 companies in the last 16 years,” de Metz told Trade Only Today. “In terms of Groupe Beneteau, I’m focusing on strategic assessment and managing the teams around demanding strategic objectives.”

Guianguido Girotti

Guianguido Girotti

De Metz said the company’s “large portfolio” of 12 brands means that it is manufacturing about 200 boat models each year, from 17-foot center consoles to the 105-foot Montecarlo, at 20 production facilities. “Each is in its own different segment and geographic territory,” he said. “What we need to do is more global brand management. That doesn’t involve changing the world, but it does mean a much better cohesion of our teams. We need to be more of a group rather than a federation of brands.”

The appointments of Christophe Caudrelier, deputy CEO for European activities, as head of the Operational Excellence department and Guianguido Girotti, previously general manager of the Beneteau brand, as head of Boat Division’s Product Strategy department, means that there will now be specific leaders overseeing the many brands.

“We used to have this type of organization until six years ago,” de Metz said. “With the strong managers, we’ll now have a new strong direction where everyone is working together.”

As head of Operational Excellence, Caudrelier will oversee production techniques, supply chain issues and types of boats built in each facility. “We would like to use the plants that are most appropriate for each product range,” de Metz said. “We can make a lot of improvements in this area.”

Girotti said the boat brands need to become a “symphony,” where each brand and model “makes sense for its portfolio.” He added that the ultimate goal is to see “gains in market share, but not to the detriment of one of the brands” across the entire portfolio.

“We are looking at each of the single brands and how it fits into the size of its market,” Girotti said. “In the $1 billion flybridge market, there is space for a lot of different players. We want to make sure each brand knows where to play.”

The way Groupe Beneteau is structured is that its Jeanneau and Beneteau divisions are completely separate, with their own leadership teams and separate go-to-market strategies. Girotti, who comes from the Beneteau side, said he never really knew Jeanneau’s strategy, even though many of the two sides’ brands compete with each other directly.

The goal, de Metz said, will not be to eliminate models for its own sake, but for each brand to retain its “identity and credibility” in the marketplace. “We’ve been very emotional about the brands in the past,” he says. “Now we need to be more rational.”

Ultimately, the company wants to reduce the time it takes to bring new models to market while increasing profit margins. The company has reiterated its 3 to 5 percent growth in global boat sales this year, with a “stable” operating income rate, compared to its last fiscal year. It will release more details about the next year, as well as a longer-term plan, in the fall.

Girotti said Groupe Beneteau has been getting more involved in the boat-club model, so it will begin designing specific products for that segment. He said Jeanneau and Beneteau models that are now being built in Europe will be built at the company’s facility in Cadillac, Mich., where it manufactures Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab. “We want to make sure to have the best product portfolio aligned with distribution,” Girotti said.

“We’re not trying to put Groupe Beneteau in place of the brands, which is our real strength,” he said, regarding the new organization. “We don’t want to affect the individuality of any brand. In fact, we want to respect each one. But we want every model to be an ambassador of its brand so it makes sense in the marketplace.”

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