Sealine International seeks buyer

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It re-entered the U.S. market after a 10-year hiatus, but Sealine International’s future is unclear after the British-based luxury yacht builder this week entered “administration,” a status akin to receivership in the United States.

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Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery LLP is the court-appointed administrator for Sealine, which posted a pretax loss equivalent to $6.2 million in 2011 (the most recent available data) on sales of $51.4 million, which were down 9.5 percent from the previous year, according to the U.K.’s Financial Times.

“We are currently seeking a buyer for the company, either in its entirety or its individual assets,” Baker Tilly public relations manager Frank Shepherd told Trade Only Today.

Sealine, based in Kidderminster, near Birmingham, was put into administration Tuesday. Sealine South Coast, the company’s sales and service division, which is based in Southampton, also entered administration Wednesday under Baker Tilly.

On Tuesday, 234 of the company’s nearly 300 employees were immediately “made redundant,” or laid off. As of Wednesday, 50 staff members remained employed, Shepherd said, adding that his company is providing assistance to the laid-off workers so they can claim financial relief through a government “redundancy fund.”

“We will be working to maximize recoveries for the company’s creditors, which includes the sale of plant and recovery of monies owed to the business,” Graham Bushby, a restructuring and recovery partner at Baker Tilly, said in a statement posted on the company’s website.

Susan Hardwick, of Hardwick PR, which handles press relations for Sealine, told Trade Only on Wednesday that the implications for the manufacturer’s North American market, which had been a bright spot, is unclear at this time.

“As of yet, Sealine Yachts America is not in administration,” she said. “Obviously the fact that Sealine International is in administration will have an impact on Sealine Yachts America, but we don’t have a crystal ball. Sealine Yachts International could be bought and restructured.”

The websites for Sealine International and Sealine Yachts America were not accessible this morning.

Hardwick said Sealine had been holding out hope for a financial infusion.

“We were looking for further investment and looking to sell the company and there was a deadline and that deadline was yesterday,” she said Wednesday. “And the investment didn’t come in time, so the board of directors for Sealine International voted to move the company into administration, which led to a court-appointed administrator.”

Bill Griffiths, based in Fort Myers, Fla., was named managing director of Sealine International in January 2012 by the La Jolla, Calif.-based Oxford Investment Group, which acquired Sealine in September 2011. He was later named president of Sealine Yachts America.

“The United States is a tough market, but it’s a whole lot better than Europe right now,” Griffiths told Trade Only at Sealine’s American debut in July 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, where it opened its first U.S. sales office. “We see more growth opportunities here.”

At that time, Griffiths said the plan was for Oxford Investment to buy additional brands and companies “where the opportunity exists and whenever it makes sense” and he expected the firm to acquire more marine properties in 2013. (Click here for that full report.)

Phone calls to Griffiths and Oxford Investment were not returned Wednesday.

Tom Riemann, who was appointed by Sealine Yachts America as general manager of its U.S. operation last August, had no comment.

— Rich Armstrong

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