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SUPERYACHT #9
Summer 2006

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news


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Article by
Fabio Petrone


FIVE YEARS OF FURTHER GROWTH

  AN INTERVIEW WITH LAMBERTO TACOLI, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF CRN SpA

N/H Lamberto Tacoli is 41 years old and lives in Bologna. He is married with three daughters. Having completed his Technical College studies he goes on to read Corporate Management and Public Relations. His first working experience takes place with a General Trading Company in Bologna where he deals with the Far Eastern markets. He becomes an entrepreneur in 1996 when he purchases a small share in the capital of Custom Line Spa, and begins his collaboration with the Ferretti Group by managing the Technical/Sales departments of the yacht production line for the newly formed company. In 1998, he sells his share in Custom Line to Ferretti Spa as part of the Ferretti Group's takeover, but remains to head his old company determining the great success of the new lines produced. In 2001, Custom Line becomes part of another member of the Ferretti Group: CRN, leader in the mega yacht construction market of which Tacoli initially took over the commercial division before becoming its Managing Director after only a few months. He has been President of the Cantieri Navali Morini since 2003 purchased by CRN in 2002 as well as being a shareholder of Ferretti Spa. He is also President of the Regional Council for the Nautical Division of the Marche Region, and has been a member of the Board of Directors of Ancona's Assindustria since 2005. A sportsman at heart, with a passion for soccer and squash which he has played at competition levels for years, he shares his free time between family and his sports. The sea is yet another passion, especially Costa Smeralda's (Sardinia) where he spends a good part of the summer.

 
One of the Ferretti Group brands is specialized in superyacht construction as many will know. Namely, Costruzioni e Riparazioni Navali, better known as CRN, involved in building steel recreational yachts since 1963. A speciality which has helped it build an excellent name for itself over the years but, that just in the last five, has witnessed peak high success by becoming one of its Country's more important representatives of the "Made in Italy" brand, consolidated in the international market for boats over 24 metres.

We went to visit CRN's headquarters in Ancona on a very cold day last February, a superyacht factory, looking over a private dockyard spreading over some 80,000 sqm. of which 35,000sqm are covered and that nonetheless, is destined to get bigger, to make up for the near exponential growth that the brand from the Marche Region is still enjoying. After visiting the various pavilions and witnessing the construction and assembly lines of both the fibreglass Custom Line boats and the steel CRN's, we had the chance of meeting Lamberto Tocoli, the managing Director of the Yard, one of the better known and respected entrepreneurs and managers in the field, thanks to the very results obtained by CRN under his leadership.

Your success story has undoubtedly come a long way, but would you ever have imagined performances such as last summer's when 4 contracts for steel boats were clinched in the space of only a few months?

To be perfectly honest we didn't expect it either, especially because shortly after that incredible summer, an order for a fifth ship was added to our books. But the most amazing thing is that the orders were all for very large, complex and very beautiful ships which it will be a great pleasure to brand CRN. Furthermore adding the other boats sold including therefore our Custom Line composite examples, we reached a total of 19 contracts signed just in the last 9 months.

What size are the steel boats going to be?

Four projects will be built off the existing construction platforms and will therefore measure respectively 54, 57 and 60 metres whereas the last and largest, with its 72 metres in length and 13.5 metres of beam, will allow us to grow by producing a new construction platform which will then be adapted to other lengths. It is a very important step for us because it takes us up another rung, in more ways than one. It represents the start of a plan which in the space of five years should have us being competitive even in the 80 metre sizes.

That is a market firmly in the hands of the large North European shipyards and maybe in those of some American ones as well, how do you envisage breaking their supremacy and leadership?

It is a tough and very difficult market which every body would like to get into quickly rather than by stages as it requires. I would not consider it very "clever" for a shipyard like ours which banks everything on quality, structures, and investments to try to jump the gun by going off to compete with the 4 or 5 well established companies sharing the top half of the market. Pushing one's way through these types of scenarios could result in poorer quality of work , finding one's structure lacking, not giving one's investments time to bear fruit and essentially stripping one's business of the basics, one's character and building method, in a nutshell it just wouldn't pay off. The strategy for gradual growth, following a well thought out and albeit rapid plan, perfectly coincides with both the Ferretti Group's idea to do things well to reach the objective as with my own. We have become extremely comepetitive in the 50 metre class today, and we already represent a good alternative to the North Europeans as well as some of the more illustrious Italian shipyards. We want this to happen also for larger sizes and will reach this goal with a range of well thought out yachts of great quality.

This will also bring about growth at a structural level .

Logistics in this sector also make up a fundamental part of a shipyard's success and this is something the whole Group is very much aware of. Large investments have been placed our way and these have and will witness a physical growth of the Yard. Just to give a better idea of the increase so far, let me tell you that on completion of the works, we'll have 6 operative platforms for steel ship construction and fitting out, all on the water front. I think only a few shipyards in the world can boast that kind of logistics not counting the part that is and will be coming for the composite construction.

Who is going to be your competitor in this new market, could you name some names?

As I have said, in as far as the steel ship market is concerned I have great respect for the Dutch and German shipyards such as Amels, Abeking and Rasmussen, Lurssen, Feadship even though the latter, with all due respect for the fame it has acquired, is somewhat the "odd man out". Rather than describing them as a shipyard it would be more correct to refer to them as a commercial venture that through well rehearsed marketing operations, sells other people's boats.

They are however very active, they appear to be expanding in the semi-mass steel production .

They are trying to do with steel today what the Ferreti Group did with Custom Line in the past; that is producing composite Semi-custom boats of between 30 and 35 metres. We proved that in the semi-mass production sector, when the product makes sense, and is well made, one can reach interesting volumes, almost surprising ones. Consider that in 1998 the first of the twenty one 94's produced to date was launched. In addition to that there are eleven 112's, fifteen small semi displacement luxury ships of thirty metres capable of cruising faster due to their hull design, and now we are very rapidly going ahead with the new 97'. I am aware of one 45 metre Feadship which will, to all intents and purposes be a Semi-custom, and if well thought out, it may even meet with considerable success. For obvious reasons however, it will not have the same contents or detail as the Custom Feadship production model and therefore the price/quality ratio will need to be closely looked at in this venture. But owners are not generally naive, I hope in fact, that they will make and judge comparisons carefully.

What about the Italian Competitors?

I have great respect for Benetti shipyards and the work carried out by Vitelli, something more than just special.

What is the secret of your success?

Maximum quality in quick production speeds. The shipyard's organization, our checks, the structure, our know how, are certainly the fruit of experience, but also the result of sizeable investments aimed at making all the steel and aluminium working phases very efficient. The surprising factor of our strategy is the use we make of outsourcing for part of the manufacturing work. While some of our competitors outsource up to 90% of their production, we are at about 45%, half their figure. The advantage gained also noticeable by the end user, lies mainly in the quality and in the more widespread checks that can take place during construction, thus guaranteeing higher standards.

So you are a very successful shipyard, and you are about to launch yourself in an even more exclusive niche, you will enlarge your yard, you will grow in every sense. But lets go back a step: what was the situation here when you took over CRN?

I joined Ferretti in 1996 when the Group had not been formed as such, and following my experience in Custom Line, I landed in Ancona at CRN Shipyards. It was in 2001 so five years have gone by, but sometimes it feels like twenty, partly because of the frenetic way of life, the ever increasing and demanding work loads, and partly because comparing the yard now to how it was just in 2001, well, it really does seem as if an era has gone by. I remember the early days here at CRN Ancona when there were only a few of us and not too organized either, the situation was what it seemed, we had to practically start again. However we got down to it creating a team that worked well together and we rode the wave. The fact that the superyacht market decided to increase over the last few years together with the general flourish of the Made in Italy brand of boats, has undoubtedly helped considerably, however we have been very much part of the whole process and this has given us a tremendous satisfaction.

A question regarding the Ferretti Group: how is it doing and when will it be floated on the stock market?

We are part of a Group you know well, with interests spread over a number of brands, managed in a different way to others, where the financial aspects which are important to any company, are in fact read with special attention particularly now that the there is a plan to go public. I think this will happen shortly, probably between the end of this year and the beginning of the next. It will be up to the owners, Permira, to decide when to ask for admission to the stock market. We however feel in safe hands. The Group of course is going through a particularly florid moment with all the brands, some more some less, are enjoying continuous growth. The shipyards are undergoing a serious and demanding development, large investments in new structures, and with a lot of new boats increasing in size practically every year. In a nutshell the Group will continue to do well in the future.

Lets talk about Custom Line .

Custom Line is doing well too. Our 97' was very well received by both dealers and owners and we have sold eight so far. Another important project is for the Small Ship of 43 metres which will place itself in a segment of the market where so far Benetti doesn't seem to have any competition, that is where we are going to throw down the gauntlet.

When will the first one be launched?

The first Small Ship 43 is being built and it will be ready for next year.

As far as your composite production is concerned and given the considerable numbers involved, I bet you're working very closely with your mother Group.

We've always moulded our boats in-house that is in the facilities provided by the Ferretti Group which are in Forlì and in Fano, such as Resin System and Della Fiore Stampaggi, but also at the ex Mochi works where in fact they also mould other Group brands like Ferretti Yacht and Riva. Speaking of Ferretti Yacht, I can preannounce that in a few days the news will be made official that we will be transferring to them part of the production and distribution aspects of the Custom Line range; it will be the Semi-custom composite line up to two decks (Custom Line 97',112' and Small Ship 30) whereas we will continue to take care of the larger ships. This is also a well pondered choice which falls in the specific growth scenario planned for CRN.