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Wednesday, 1st January 2014

A superyacht is the ultimate toy. The sleekest, most glamorous accessory on the planet. They can cruise deserted coasts allowing the owners and their friends to cavort in utter privacy away from prying eyes and lenses, or they can moor boastfully at Saint Tropez, courting recognition, admiration and column inches. This freedom and luxury doesn’t come cheap: a 99-metre Feadship will cost its owner somewhere in the region of €250m. Only oligarchs, hedge-funders and oil-rich potentates need apply.

Chris Cecil-Wright is a yacht broker who knows the rarefied world of superyachts and their owners intimately. He has just started his own yacht broking business, Cecil Wright, but comes to the party with some 20 years’ experience in the industry. He began sailing as a boy on the Solent and has been on the water, in one vessel or another, ever since. After school at Rugby he was commissioned into the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, but his military career was cut short by a paragliding accident in which he broke his back. After a year’s recovery, he got a job with yacht brokers Camper & Nicholson in 1993. Three years later, he joined Nick Edmiston when he founded his eponymous broking firm in Monaco, becoming a director and partner in 2001.

Cecil Wright is both a yacht chartering business and a brokerage that puts together bespoke deals to buy, sell or build yachts. The chartering arm is a viable business in its own right, ‘creating,’ as Chris puts it, ‘a platform from which I can do sales, the lumpy side of the business, which I enjoy.’ It is ‘a relationship business, where attraction and credibility are all important’. He will often start by chartering a yacht for a client, which then leads to a love of yachts and an eventual sale, before taking the ultimate step of helping the owner build from scratch.

The market for superyachts has changed beyond all recognition in the last decade or so. Until the late 90s, ‘the market was tiny, we knew every big yacht and everyone who bought or sold one’. But in the early 2000s, the market ‘rocketed’ as a direct result of the speed and extent of the generation of wealth in that decade. Suddenly, it was possible to become rich beyond imagination in a few years whereas previously it might have taken half a lifetime. Consequently, as Chris explains, ‘we can’t now know all the yachts and all the buyers,’ so he has decided that for his new venture ‘the major objective is to have fewer clients and provide a better, more personal service.’

Commissioning a superyacht is a long, drawn-out process. Before a boat reaches the construction stage - cutting steel, in the jargon -at least a year will be spent drawing up the contract and refining and testing the design specification. For his role in this Chris will receive­ a percentage commission from the shipyard building the vessel. When building a yacht can cost upwards of €100m, even a small percentage amounts to a large sum of money. Chris, however, is adamant that he adds value and brings to the deal far more than he costs.

As one industry insider notes, yacht brokers ‘don’t tend to eat baked beans’, but I suspect that Chris’s expertise, charm, energy and discretion will combine to ensure that Cecil Wright clients are happy clients.

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