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New Sunseeker CEO Christian Marti plans for the future

Business
Written by
Laura Nicholls

After Phil Popham stepped down from the role in 2018, Christian Marti was appointed CEO of the UK-based superyacht manufacturer: Sunseeker International. Having previously worked as Chief Sales Officer and Vice-President of Aston Martin Lagonda, Marti has worked within the automotive industry for over 25 years for brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover and McLaren Automotive.

While many members of the Sunseeker team, for example, Chief Technical Officer Andrea Frabetti, have decades of experience producing vessels, Marti offers a fresh perspective with his plentiful experience in the automotive industry, making Sunseeker’s team a rich set of skills and perspectives. With the intention to get to know more about the latest addition to the Sunseeker team and what he is planning next, SuperYacht Times catches Christian Marti during Boot Düsseldorf for a quick chat. Christian Marti Sunseeker CEOSo, can you tell us more about your background and what brought you into the world of yachting?

I started with BMW in Germany and for a long time, I worked as MD for Land Rover in countries like Austria, China and France. I moved to England eight-and-a-half years ago to take on a senior role with McLaren Automotive then five-and-a-half years ago, a great opportunity arose to take over global sales at Aston Martin. It was a real turnaround situation - the company went from loss-making to an IPO at the London Stock Exchange with a market cap of £4 billion. That’s a story you can be proud of and it would have been easy to remain part of that management team, as it is a great company. 

Then Sunseeker called. When I was travelling for work a few years ago, I would often buy boating magazines before getting on the flight. I always dreamed about having a boat in the Mediterranean, so I got a powerboat license and then a day skipper. Now, I am in the process of buying a 15-year-old Sunseeker

I am honoured to have the opportunity to become CEO of an iconic brand like Sunseeker but it's very different from the motor industry. I am lucky to have a supportive executive team, with Sean Robertson as Sales Director and Andrea Frabetti as Chief Technical Officer, they have yachting know-how that I am still missing. It's the team, and not just one person, that makes the difference. Sunseeker 161 yacht exterior designWhat was the challenge you see here at Sunseeker? Are you planning on doing things differently or do you feel it is better to continue growing the company? 

We had a very good five-year plan executed by Phil and over the last three years, we saw a 55 per cent increase in revenue and a 26 per cent increase in boat sales, which shows that the value of the boats has increased dramatically. We also have 40 per cent more employees than three years ago, so the company has really grown. My main goal is focused on growing the company, using the capacity we have in place and being profitable. It’s what our shareholders expect from us as a management team. This is when the next five-year plan kicks in. 

Our new design direction includes plans for the Sunseeker 161 and Project 8X, and we also have a hybrid project planned with MTU. We are focusing on opening the aft section to make it more free-standing, which provides our design department with more opportunity for individualisation. That's the first part of our current five-year plan, but we need some time to fine-tune that. Sunseeker 161 yacht exterior designWhat is the maximum size you would like to build at Sunseeker?

For now, the maximum length we are exploring is with the 161 in partnership with ICON. In September before I joined, Sunseeker had decided that to create 50m+ boats, we needed metal and aluminium know-how. Therefore, it was a great decision to work together with ICON.Sunseeker 161 Yacht interior designPhoto: Design UnlimitedWhat do you envision for the superyacht market in the near future?

Anticipating an evolving market has been a key driver behind the success of Sunseeker since its inception. We constantly strive to develop new, exciting products and have probably had more industry ‘firsts’ over the past 50 years because of that pioneering philosophy. 

Being able to anticipate future trends or even create them has long been a strength of Sunseeker and we are confident that our next generation of new models will continue to innovate.  Space, light, usability and technology will remain important of course but it is how we use these to create something truly special that will keep us ahead of the competition.

Sunseeker Hawk 38 yacht cruisingThere has been talk of Sunseeker increasing and decreasing their fleet range - what are your thoughts on this?

Our strategy includes continual investment in exciting new products, including, but not limited to, smaller performance craft and larger builds at the top of the range. The forthcoming launch of our brand-new high-performance day boat, Hawk 38 is a very exciting time for the business. The heritage of the Sunseeker is built on a legacy of developing small performance racing boats, we are the technical experts in this field, and it lies within the brand’s DNA. Having worked previously with Fabio Buzzi Design on the XS2000 and XS Sport as far back as 18 years ago, Sunseeker has always dominated this area and will continue to do so with this technologically advanced cutting-edge new model.Sunseeker Hawk 38 yacht cruisingHow is the process of you becoming a new yacht owner going?

It's very confusing actually! In the car industry, I can walk into a car dealership, pick a used car and get a one-year warranty. Boats have been in the water and sunshine, so it’s important to choose carefully, check how the boat was maintained and seek professional advice from a surveyor. It's a challenging process for somebody who doesn't have the experience. 

I'm currently looking at a Superhawk 40 or 50. If I want to take this job seriously, then it involves a lifestyle change. My colleagues have been boating their whole lives. I didn't come with that background, so I need to be completely submerged.Sunseeker Hawk 38 yacht cruisingIn your role as CEO, what would you like to look back on in five years’ time at Sunseeker?

I’d like to see that I've brought globalisation to the company, we are a global brand but a localised company. All our employees are in Poole, but I think we also need to be closer to our customer base in America and Asia. This will help our dealers promote and represent the brand. We could consider creating regional offices, where we have a permanent presence in these important markets. We have seen growth in America and Asia but know that we can do even better. 30 per cent of our sales go to America and 20 per cent to Asia. 

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