Why Ed­mis­ton's ex­ec­u­tive Jamie Ed­mis­ton is putting his fo­cus on in­no­va­tion Paul Ash­ton

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Jamie Ed­mis­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ed­mis­ton.

On a Fri­day af­ter­noon in his London of­fice, Jamie Ed­mis­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ed­mis­ton, is re­count­ing his past ten days of travel: eight dif­fer­ent cities in six dif­fer­ent coun­tries. “One of my daugh­ters asked me re­cently, ‘Daddy, do you work at Heathrow?’ You have to work hard to be suc­cess­ful in this busi­ness. You need to be pre­pared to be on the go seven days a week. It’s not ideal at times as it has an im­pact on the fam­ily, but it’s what you have to do. If you are awake, you’re work­ing.”

This has been the pat­tern since he re­turned to the busi­ness in 2014. Jamie’s time is spent be­tween Ed­mis­ton’s Monaco and London of­fices, al­though given that his role is par­tic­u­larly client-fac­ing he is trav­el­ling world­wide for a sub­stan­tial part of the year. “I meet clients a lot. We have a great team of bro­kers and I work closely with them but I’m happy to get in­volved if re­quired,” he says. “Over the past 15 years I’ve de­vel­oped a lot of re­la­tion­ships in this busi­ness, and that re­ally helps when it comes to solv­ing prob­lems.”

Though there have been changes in the busi­ness – the clients are a lit­tle younger, the yachts a whole lot big­ger – what hasn’t changed is the rea­son to spend time on a yacht. “It’s a very ex­pen­sive prod­uct, but they are very com­pelling to own or char­ter, of­fer­ing a unique se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ences and a dif­fer­ent level of ser­vice to any­where else,” he says. “A yacht is an in­cred­i­ble prod­uct – as com­pli­cated as a war­ship and more com­fort­able than the best ho­tel in the world. One of the key dif­fer­en­tia­tors though, is the level of ser­vice: it’s un­matched any­where in the world. Be­ing on a boat is ad­dic­tive. Once you’ve spent time on a yacht you re­ally don’t want to give it up.”

His path to chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ed­mis­ton – the com­pany founded in 1996 by his fa­ther and cur­rent chair­man Ni­cholas – has been cir­cuitous. For Jamie Ed­mis­ton, an in­tro­duc­tion to big­ger yachts came early. “I’ve been around yachts all my life. Sum­mer hol­i­days would of­ten in­volve me be­ing in Monaco, and wait­ing in my fa­ther’s of­fice. In 1985 I re­mem­ber see­ing the 82-me­tre Benetti Na­bila – then the largest yacht in the world. Now, as King­dom 5KR, she looks com­par­a­tively small. My fa­ther had a Tofinu, a 9.5-me­tre day-racer built on the Ile de Ré, and I used to go out on that oc­ca­sion­ally. I love yachts, though my in­ter­est is very much in busi­ness,” he says.

This early ex­po­sure didn’t con­vince the young Jamie that his future was in yacht­ing. At univer­sity in France he stud­ied mar­ket­ing and busi­ness (“an ex­tended skiing hol­i­day!” is how he de­scribes it). “I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I worked for a char­ity, and then got in­volved in the mar­ket­ing ser­vices busi­ness. That’s when I de­vel­oped a real in­ter­est in brands. In 1996 I was in­tro­duced to some­one work­ing in strate­gic brand de­vel­op­ment. After talk­ing to him, I re­alised that this was what I wanted to do. The whole premise is cre­at­ing in­tel­lec­tual as­sets. I started work­ing for him, and was for­tu­nate to re­alise that I was half-way good at it,” he says.

A spell with an in­ter­net start-up fol­lowed (“it went re­ally, re­ally well, then re­ally, re­ally badly!” he says), but as the new Mil­len­nium ap­proached, Jamie still hadn’t found the path he was look­ing for. “I’d learned a lot about brand­ing, and the idea oc­curred to me: why don’t we build a lux­ury brand in the yacht busi­ness?” The next stop was his fa­ther. “He was an es­tab­lished fig­ure and one of the pi­o­neers in the sec­tor. Ed­mis­ton had a brand in place, but I sug­gested we should change it, and he sup­ported me,” says Jamie. Out of this came the fa­mous Ed­mis­ton red – “de­signed, along with the logo, on my kitchen ta­ble in June 2001”. It was launched at the Amer­ica’s Cup Ju­bilee Re­gatta in Au­gust that year. “I wanted to cre­ate a lux­ury brand in the yacht space that didn’t look any­thing like yacht­ing. It was a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach, but the im­pact on the

busi­ness was very pos­i­tive.” By 2007 Ed­mis­ton was among the ma­jor play­ers in the in­dus­try, and to­day is a lead­ing pres­ence in new builds, bro­ker­age, char­ter and yacht man­age­ment. “The yacht busi­ness is about peo­ple. If you can marry a good team of peo­ple with good mar­ket­ing, then you can re­ally achieve some­thing,” he says.

Hav­ing made his mark within the yacht busi­ness, Jamie found a new chal­lenge in 2011, when he bought be­spoke fur­ni­ture-maker Lin­ley. “I wanted some time out of the yacht busi­ness, and here was a com­pany with great prod­ucts, strong her­itage, and a won­der­ful story to it, and I saw it as a brand play. We re­branded the busi­ness and I learned a lot about re­tail in a very short space of time. We put to­gether a good team of peo­ple and were for­tu­nate enough to achieve a de­gree of suc­cess. I am proud of what we achieved,” he says.

Jamie hadn’t lost con­tact with the yacht­ing busi­ness com­pletely – “we of­ten sold to clients that I knew” – and in 2014 a route back to Ed­mis­ton opened up. “A group of Malaysian in­vestors made an of­fer to buy Lin­ley that we couldn’t re­ally refuse,” he says. With Jamie’s fa­ther Nick want­ing to take more of a back seat, it was a good time to re­turn. “I came back to a busi­ness with a great team, a fan­tas­tic client base and a re­ally strong brand,” he adds. “Al­though I took over the mantel of chief ex­ec­u­tive, I ac­tu­ally work more closely with my fa­ther now than I did when I was pre­vi­ously at Ed­mis­ton.”

A par­tic­u­lar pas­sion is the drive for in­no­va­tion – some­thing that comes from the client base. “It’s im­pres­sive when owners put their money into some­thing in­no­va­tive. Alfa Nero was the first yacht to have a swim­ming pool, and now they are the norm. These days, spas and he­li­pads are ev­ery­where. If you want to build a house with all the fa­cil­i­ties, you have to make sure the plan­ning author­i­ties will let you do it. If you want to build a big yacht, you can do what you want. Apart from tech­ni­cal ques­tions and cost, there’s no limit to your imag­i­na­tion,” he says.

“I’m nat­u­rally an en­tre­pre­neur. Our fo­cus in re­cent times has been ‘the busi­ness of yacht­ing’. Yacht­ing is all about fun, of course, but it’s also about busi­ness, and it’s ac­tu­ally a very im­por­tant busi­ness to the UK econ­omy,” he says. It is also, of course, a global busi­ness, and Jamie ex­presses his pride in deal­ing with Ed­mis­ton clients from all over the world.

“I fear that some­times yacht­ing is mis­un­der­stood. It isn’t just about wealthy peo­ple on va­ca­tion. It’s about a lot more than that; it’s an in­dus­try that em­ploys a lot of peo­ple. An 80-me­tre yacht em­ploys 20-some­thing crew. The ship­yard that built it will have em­ployed sev­eral hun­dred work­ers, and there will have been hun­dreds more sub-con­trac­tors. When the yacht calls in at a port, it brings money to the lo­cal econ­omy. Thou­sands of peo­ple ben­e­fit. Any­one who works in the yacht busi­ness, be it bro­ker, builder, sup­plier or crew mem­ber, is for­tu­nate that there are suc­cess­ful peo­ple who are pre­pared to spend their money on big yachts.”

That mo­ti­va­tion from owners and char­ter­ers to seek the unique ex­pe­ri­ences that come with yacht­ing is some­thing Jamie be­lieves is only go­ing to grow in strength. “I had a client re­cently who’d never char­tered be­fore, and he booked a week on a 55-me­tre. He sent me a mes­sage to say that it was the best hol­i­day he’d ever had. The thing that makes me proud­est is en­sur­ing the client has the best pos­si­ble time on board, as an owner or a char­terer.”

So what can we ex­pect from Ed­mis­ton in the next 24 months? “I love in­no­va­tion in what­ever busi­ness I am in­volved in, and I want to carry that for­ward. I hope we can be recog­nised as one of the in­no­va­tors of re­cent years, and it is my in­ten­tion that con­tin­ues,” he says. SYW

“Yacht­ing is all about FUN but it’s also about BUSI­NESS”

Right: Jamie Ed­mis­ton: yacht­ing is ad­dic­tive. Above: Key yachts that have been part of the Ed­mis­ton port­fo­lio in­clude the 115-me­tre Lürssen Pelorus and the 88.5-me­tre Oceanco Nir­vana.

Above, left and right: The iconic 74.5-me­tre Enigma – launched in 1991 by Blohm+voss, is on bro­ker­age with Ed­mis­ton.

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