SYT catches up with Mike Newton-Woof, industry veteran and Managing Director of UK-based yacht brokerage Ventura Yachts.Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your introduction to the industry and role at Ventura Yachts?
In 1990, after my studies, a role as an Offshore Accountant became available for a Marine company in Marbella, Spain. Over the course of three summers I learnt my trade under the guidance of Robin Tupper. I eventually joined the newly formed Ancasta Powerboats, which later became Marina Marbella UK, the UK’s exclusive importer of Sea Ray Boats, Ferretti Yachts and Pershing.
We then opened a new office in London, but the industry was really struggling through a recession and many of the team left. At the tender age of 24 I was quite literally ‘last man standing’ and became a Director. In 1993 when I joined Marina Marbella UK we sold five Sea Rays. When I left as Managing Director in 2001, we sold 150 Sea Rays and a number of Ferretti Yachts and Pershings. To this day, I am still extremely proud of our team’s achievements during those years together.
In 2002, Robin, Kristofer Westermark and Francis Holbourne set up Ventura Yachts as the exclusive Ferretti Group distributor for Spain. I joined as their UK Managing Director and I am still in this role today, happier than ever!Photo: Custom LineVentura Yachts have been very successful in recent years, what do you think the reason for this is?
Firstly, we strongly believe in the products and management behind the Ferretti Group. The range of yachts across all the Ferretti Group brands; Ferretti Yachts, Riva, Pershing, Custom Line, Itama, CRN and the newest addition Wally, sets us apart in this very competitive environment.
Secondly, arguably the backbone of our success, is our customer retention, after-sales support and customer care. One of the many things I learnt very early in my career was if you don’t look after the customers who like, trust and respect you, then you will only ever sell one boat to one person for the rest of your career.
Over the course of my careers at Marina Marbella and Ventura Yachts, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with one excellent marketing comms agency, Creative Partners, headed by Robin Petherbridge. We foster and build client trust by creating consistent and cohesive marketing campaigns, progressively building confidence in the Ventura brand.
It was the same for Marina Marbella in the UK, where we built the status and desirability of the Sea Ray brand in the eyes of a UK audience, while at the same time building trust in Marina Marbella UK. You never know who is watching, listening or sharing information, so treat every customer like they are your last. Respectfully!Photo: Riva Yachts Are there any particular yacht sales which stand out to you in your history with Ventura?
Perhaps the most amusing (looking back at it) and fortunate sale came at the end of the financial crisis in 2010. The client was interested in a 30-metre Custom Line and wanted to meet in Monaco to ‘thrash’ out the details.
I took my seat on the flight on the day in question, when over the tannoy system an announcement was made for Mr Newton-Woof. I sheepishly raised my hand, when I was informed that I was on the right flight but on the wrong day.
I transferred to City Airport and arrived in Monaco just in time to meet the entire party walking out. At which point I introduced myself to everyone and the buyer said, as he was shaking my hand, “How very nice of you to turn up”. At which point he turned around and walked off! His family office and I continued the meeting and signed the order the following week. I was sure I lost years off my life that day.How do you see the rest of 2021 playing out in terms of yacht sales and charter, with many brokers complaining about lack of inventory?
It is astonishing that 2020 and 2021 have seen such a surge in sales activity throughout the industry. As new boat production levels never quite recovered to pre-financial crisis levels, there has been a short supply of young products in the marketplace over the last 10 years. Added to a huge uptick in sales activity, there is inevitably a supply / demand challenge. We, as are most of our competitors, are seeing new orders being secured well into 2023, which in my 30+ year experience has never happened in the sub-35m sector. The challenge the industry now faces, which is going to become a global phenomenon, is inflation and interest rate raises. This will encourage existing boat owners to put their boats back on the market, possibly at more than they paid for them, which will increase supply in the pre-owned market at a time when demand may be easing.In your opinion, are there any burgeoning markets in the superyacht industry, and how do you think the market is going to change in the coming years?
Without a doubt the environment will play a major part in purchases over the next decade. This may take the form of changes in propulsion to hybrid, electric, solar and hydrogen and in the physical materials used to reduce weight, through to underwater coatings to prevent fouling build-up and increase through-water efficiency.
The refit market will invariably benefit from retrofitting more fuel efficient engines and power plants, as has been seen from the speed of development with gyroscopic stabilisation systems.
Another observation I have made is the traction and development of the fractional yacht ownership program. The next generation of younger buyers means manufacturers and retailers will need to look closely at their business models to ensure that those new buyers are not alienated.