Cecil-Wright to grow charter offering in 2022

25 March 2022 by Miranda Blazeby

Superyacht inventory on the second-hand market is at an all-time low following the yachting boom of 2021, leaving many brokers scrabbling for new listings and chasing off-market rumours.

“There’s nothing left to sell,” says Chris Cecil-Wright, founder of brokerage house Cecil-Wright & Partners. “We sold all of the central agencies last year, we literally have none left.” Despite this, he remains upbeat citing “six years of operating cash in the bank, a motivated group of people in the business and plenty of nice clients.”

“I don’t feel the least bit stressed,” he adds, arguing that the boom of 2021, like the crash of 2008, is a blip. “We’ve seen huge swings up and huge swings down. We’re a tiny cottage industry and the volume of deals that happen is actually relatively small.” Should a business be shaken at its roots by these swings, that business is “quite vulnerable,” he says.

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With fewer deals to be done this year, Cecil-Wright is turning his attention instead to a year of “business development”, with plenty of plans to come to fruition in 2022. Cecil-Wright’s vision remains focused on “gentle, moderate and sensible growth.” There is no intention to become a brokerage behemoth. Instead, Cecil-Wright wants to retain the bespoke, intimate nature of the business that is focused on securing a “smaller turnover and a bigger profit.” The ultimate goal, he says, “is keeping the profit margin sensible and the service levels up.”

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With this in mind, one of the main drivers for Cecil-Wright in 2022 is establishing a fully-fledged charter department – an area that has remained untapped since Cecil-Wright founded the business in 2013. “Historically I’ve just offered it to clients of mine who wanted to do some charter,” he says. “Now we’re putting the horse before the cart and driving that business.” The plan is to build the charter department into “a regular standalone business” led by people already in the business who are passionate about charter. The idea is to grow this area “gently”. “We’ll see if it pays off,” Cecil-Wright says. Charter enquiries and bookings for the summer season are already strong, with Cecil-Wright noting that more clients are booking earlier than ever. The company currently has seven central agency charter yachts and has more capacity to take on further yachts.

Another significant development in the company is the appointment of commercial director Ed Carrell. This appointment is key for Cecil-Wright who, he claims, “never set out to set up a business.” After 20 years at Edmiston, where Cecil-Wright says he found himself “running just to stand still”, he intended to set up a “platform” to enable him to “carry on doing business without all the noise.” Despite never setting out to recruit others, Cecil-Wright found himself attracting hopeful applications from former colleagues. Without his intention, the business grew but Cecil-Wright’s intention remained to “look after my clients”. “I said to everyone in the business, if the business gets to a point where it needs running, let’s find someone else to run it.” Enter Carrell. Carrell’s appointment is to ensure Cecil-Wright doesn’t get “tied up in the day-to-day running” of the company and is free to “carry on with the sales stuff.”

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Carrell has “no expertise in yachting or sales”, Cecil-Wright says but is proficient in “numbers and management” having held senior banking roles, including chief operating officer of Barclays Africa Group. This makes the appointment “unique at our level of business,” Cecil-Wright says. “If you look at any of the other smaller brokers, they’re all owned and directed by the lead salesperson,” he says. The promotion of the best performing salesperson into a management position is, however “a real waste of an asset”, according to Cecil-Wright. Carrell’s appointment is already bearing fruit with “properly established budgets” which “translate into marketing budgets”, which are much more “scientifically defined and the results of which are much more scientifically evaluated.”

While 2022 represents a year of business development for the company, the broker is “not out there searching for businesses to buy or people to employ,” Cecil-Wright says. “Everybody is fully focused on their day-to-day job which is selling and chartering boats.”

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