Six weeks after Southampton-based Oyster Yachts went into administration, tech entrepreneur Richard Hadida has been announced as the new owner in a move that is hoped to save most of the company’s staff.
The British yard ceased operations in February 2018 due to a combination of low margins, poor cost control and an insurance claim relating to the capsize of one of its vessels in 2015. Financial failure happened despite having had its largest-ever order book in excess of £80 million (approx. €91 million); £10 million more than its orders reported for 2016.
Mr Hadida's involvement will allow Oyster to resume construction on vessels such as its flagship project, the Oyster 118, and wider operations that had been paused following the company’s failure. He revealed that 25 yachts are currently at various stages of completion across Oyster's two sites in Norfolk and Hampshire, and confirmed that long-term design partner Rob Humphreys will continue collaborating with the yard.
Hadida said he “fell in love” with the yacht builder having sailed regularly on Eddie Jordan’s Oyster 855 yacht Lush, but added that his investment in Oyster was “not merely a hobby”.
He said, “I believe we must save this great British brand and nurture it for the long term. But it needs to be a sustainable business: Hard, quick decisions need to be taken.”
Even if he admits being “ill-equipped” for the yacht business, the entrepreneur says he can bring “commercial acumen and common sense” to the company, as the boatbuilding industry “needs to evolve like every other industry”.
Mr Hadida has taken on the role of interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found and Oyster rebuilds its management team. Kim Stubbs, former Sunseeker COO and turnaround specialist, has also been brought on board to help Oyster on its new business plan.
Future plans for Oyster might include moving into the smaller-yachts market or adopting modern construction techniques to reduce build times.
Commenting on Oyster’s future in an interview with Boat International, Hadida said, "Rather than making Oysters exclusive to people who have the money to buy a 50-foot [15-metre] yacht, we want to open it up to new owners. The sooner we get them into the family, the better."
The deal, which was concluded for an undisclosed sum, includes Oyster Marine Limited and Oyster Marine Holdings, which means that the brand name and trademark, technical designs and drawings, build manuals, hull mouldings, machinery and subsidiary shares have all been purchased.
What’s more, it is understood that Kim Stubbs' 'zero tolerance manufacturing' approach will form a key part of the new business plan.
Speaking on behalf of administrators KPMG, Neil Gostelow said, “We are delighted to have a concluded a sale of the business, ensuring the recommencement of yacht production together with the opportunities for employment that this will bring.”
Meanwhile, former Oyster CEO David Tydeman added, "I’m sure Richard will lead Oyster through the next chapter of its successful history with enthusiasm and care. Thanks to all the team for the fantastic achievements of the last decade — we’re handing Richard a great range of seven new models, and a more cohesive and global brand identity than when we started."
Reports have revealed that although the new company will trade under the name Oyster Yachts, it will carry no liability for the 2015 sinking of 27.43m sailing yacht Polina Star III and any subsequent legal action.
For more information, visit Oyster Yachts.