“Every person that has achieved success thinks about owning a Ferrari, but if you like the ocean you also think about Perini Navi.” These words keep appearing in my mind as we make our way back to the airport after a meeting with Edoardo Tabacchi in the jet set Sardinian seaside town of Porto Cervo. It is the height of summer and news about Fenix Srl’s new partnership agreement with Fabio Perini’s Faper Group broke but a few weeks ago. We decided to meet the new Vice President in his hometown along with Perini’s new Chairman and CEO, Lamberto Tacoli.
In May this year Perini Navi announced that it has signed an agreement with the Tabacchi family wherein Fenix Srl, the family company led by Dino Tabacchi, have acquired 49.999% interest in Perini Navi and whereby Tabacchi’s son, Edoardo, is instated as the company’s newest Vice President while Fabio Perini remains Honorary President of the company.
A keen yachtsman himself, Edoardo Tabacchi has a strong connection with the luxury sector having stepped down as Vice President of Italian eyewear retailer, Salmoiraghi & Viganò just last year following its buyout from Luxottica. “I have always been passionate about boats. My family has always had a boat in one form or another. We sailed for 20 years and then later cruised with motor yachts for another 20 years, so I got to experience both sides of the market.” Now being yacht-less for the first time in many years, apart from his 47-foot RIB that is kept at his home in Porto Cervo, Tabacchi is perhaps more eager now than ever to take on the challenge that lies ahead.
The conversation soon turns to business, and it is clear that Tabacchi is here to get things done. But despite his determination and drive, it would seem that sitting on this side of the Perini table was never part Edoardo’s plan. “No, I was never looking for a stake in this market,” he clarifies. “I had the opportunity to meet Mr Perini around Christmas time last year after having already been in contact with the sales team in the past as I have tried several times to buy a (used) Perini. So we ended up talking about his company and the future of Perini. After that meeting in December, we realised that we have something special and he suggested that we start a deal together, which we achieved a few months later.”
A deal which might only have taken a few months to seal, but according to Edoardo is set to last far longer than simply a few short years. “We will be part of the company for many years. We are not investing as a private equity firm for three to five years, we want to be part of it for an extended period as we made an agreement with the Perini family to keep building the company with the same Italian values in order to save the brand for the future.”
Despite admitting his entry-level knowledge of yacht-builder management, Edoardo is a man with a plan and has enough experience as an owner that might just give Perini Navi the edge it has been missing over the last few years. The company’s approach to building yachts on speculation, such as the 60-metre currently in build in Turkey, will continue. “I have been a client and I know how crazy it is to wait three years for your boat to be completed. Many don’t care how long the build takes, but simply want to enjoy the best parts of the experience; the cruising. So why not continue building on speculation? It has proved very useful so far.”
Handcrafted, custom Italian luxury, however, will remain firmly at the heart of the company and a new strategy is being developed that will bring a closer connection with the brand and the motor yachts it has produced under the Picchiotti name in the past. “We will have an all-new product line for both sailing yachts and motor yachts – something outside of the box. We are a new company, essentially, with new shareholders and I think the market is waiting for something new from us.”
A new company, perhaps, but Edoardo makes it very clear that the essence that has made Perini Navi, Perini Navi will remain and the iconic man behind the brand himself is not to fade away anytime soon. “Mr Perini is an essential part of all of this. He will most certainly continue in the company, which was also my agreement with him. I didn’t want to buy the company without Mr Perini; without his mind and his desire to create something new. We like very much to spend hours together to think about the future and the new products to draw. We always dream together of the future of the sail business.”
This honest and upfront approach is not only a personal attribute of Edoardo’s; he clearly feels there are changes that need to happen in benefit of the entire industry. “I think that this business has to become much more serious. It is not normal to promote a boat for sale at 25 million and sell it at 15 million. You will not find that in any other business. If it’s good to sell the boat at 15, why promote it at 25 in the first place? This is happening in Italy and elsewhere all over Europe too. I am not suggesting a fruit-market style of trading, but this industry can certainly grow up in terms of sales.” Edoardo remains hopeful, however, and feels that targeting the right individuals and delivering on promises made can quickly yield results. “There are a lot of new rich passionate people all over the world that are becoming richer with more culture and a new love for the sea and these kinds of products. I’m very positive. Sail yachts are also a way to be closer to the environment and respect the sea”
One-on-one with Lamberto Tacoli
How long have you been involved with the whole deal?
Around December last year, when I was invited by the Perini family to join on the management side of the business. We knew we had to get a new commitment and an Italian at that. I immediately thought about Edoardo. He has a lot of experience operating in difficult markets and, most importantly, he and his family are in love with Perini. We worked to fine-tune the deal for about six months which was finalised on 24th May this year.
Have you thought about lowering the entry-level Perini models to 30-metres?
To be honest, no. I think Edoardo and I agree on this, that today a 40-metre yacht is not big anymore. A 40-metre can still be sporty but also classic, so we are working with a new designer on this as our starting point.
Will motor yacht production become a big part of the company’s future?
The focus will remain on the sailing yacht sector. From the day we started, I was personally involved with 80% in business development for sailing products rather than motor yachts. Motor yachts are my skill, however, and of course, if the market gives us any opportunities in that sector, we will take it.
Do you have a good feeling about the market?
I feel it is a better market than it was 5 or 6 years ago; we will never go back to 2007. But it is still a difficult market. However, today the market is much more focused on the ‘passionate’ owner, and this is a key point I believe. We need to communicate better the opportunity to own a yacht, to enjoy the sea and everything it is connected to as well as the idea of having a yacht as your own. We also need to enlarge our target market, as I feel we have been fishing in the same lake for the same clients for too long. I think in the next 5 to 10 years, together with Asian clients, we will see that gradually increase.
This article was featured in the most recent edition of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door, and never miss another issue.