Sunseeker Yachts announced this morning that its founder, Robert Braithwaite, died in the early hours. CEO Christian Marti said in a statement that Braithwaite was “an inspiration to everyone at Sunseeker and to the wider marine industry,” calling him the ‘father of the “Sunseeker family” in the UK and with its dealers in other countries.
Braithwaite began building his first boats in 1971 under the Sovereign brand. A 17-footer was followed by a 20-footer. A year after the boats were launched, the company exhibited at the Southampton Boat Show. Robert’s brother, John, joined the business shortly after and headed up product development.
By the late 1970s, Braithwaite had hired Don Shead, a designer of racing boats and superyachts, to design a new style of cruiser. The company expanded its export market beyond the U.K. and moved into the Mediterranean area, building ever-larger yachts. In 2000, it launched its 105 Yacht. It currently has a 131-ft. model.
Braithwaite’s company, which has grown to 2,500 workers in Poole, U.K., is now considered a leader in the motoryacht segment, competing against Princess, Azimut, and the Ferretti Group. Sunseeker now has a network of 120 dealer and service locations, with exports to more than 74 countries.
The company was sold in 2013 to the China-based Dalian Wanda Group, which acquired a 91.8 percent stake.
Sunseekers have appeared in four James Bond films, beginning with “The World is Not Enough” in 1999. Robert Braithwaite had a cameo role in “Quantum of Solace,” driving the company’s first model, the Sovereign 17.
“Robert was an inspiration to everyone at Sunseeker and to the wider marine industry, recognised as a boating pioneer, a true visionary and someone who changed the face of boating forever,” said Marti.