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