Wit and wisdom
BERTHON IS A YACHT BROKER WITH A PERSONALITY. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE TEAM
ails like a witch,’ concludes one of Berthon’s famous brokerage adverts.
The listings in the pages of Yachting World are many owners’ first impression of Berthon, and the impression they give is one of well-informed charm, with a dash of wit.
Well spec’d boats are described as having ‘the full caboodle’, while a 50-footer is ‘built for fast cruising without gorillas’. Offers are invited ‘within the bounds of decency’. Everyone reads the Berthon pages, regardless of whether or not they thought they were in the market for a boat.
Berthon’s characteristic tone was the brainchild of Sue Grant, the MD, who joined the company nearly 30 years ago. Bored by the conventional brokerage descriptions of the time, she took inspiration from a
scollection of brutally honest London real estate listings, and created Berthon’s tongue in cheek style. Despite the fact Berthon now sells some 200 yachts a year, none of the adverts is bought in from a copywriting agency – instead each is written by the Berthon brokers who are selling the boats. That’s because capturing a boat’s whole history and personality in just a couple of lines is thanks to the Berthon ethos of knowing each yacht intimately, from the technicalities of a refit to which are best equipped for ‘polar bears and penguins’ sailing. They try to get to know every owner equally well – some 50% of their business is to repeat customers.
Much of that knowledge comes from experience – Sue Grant estimates that the brokers have 150 years of experience in selling boats between them. The whole Berthon brokerage operation includes 27 people working across four locations – Lymington, Mandelieu-la Napoule in the south of France, Rhode Island, USA, and newly, Palma de Mallorca in Spain.
Brokerage is just a small part of what Berthon does – some 150 staff are employed at the Lymington site, working on everything from the rebuild of a 1925 classic dayboat to the full refurbishment of a modern 88ft motoryacht, maintaining lifeboats and military vessels, as well as re-sprays, refits and repairs on leisure yachts and motorboats of all types and vintages. A full gardiennage service is now offered in Palma.
Berthon brokers are thoroughly trained in-house; this is akin to an apprenticeship. Sue Grant believes it takes a minimum of five years to learn the craft properly, and many have been with the company for many more years. Each broker has his or her own area of specialism (so aren’t competing against one another for commission) but they all work as one team.
Sue Grant herself has a near-photographic
‘It takes a minimum of five years to learn the craft to become a broker’
memory for the yachts her clients have bought and sold. She can rattle through in forensic detail the history of not only any yacht you care to point at in the Berthon yard, but also many of the yachts on the market (it’s surely no coincidence she has a volume of Sherlock Holmes next to her desk).
But there is another member of the team who is equally all-knowing: Bob.
Bob is not, in fact, a tweed-wearing gentleman of a certain age, but Berthon’s custom designed data handling system (the acronym reflects an office love of Blackadder!). The system is a unique (Gdpr-compliant) database of information on all the yachts that Berthon has for sale, or has sold, and owners. Constantly updated by the brokerage team, it gives Berthon an unrivalled tool in matching boats with potential buyers.
Bob also manages the marketing activity of each boat – besides print listings, Berthon produces much of their photography in-house and increasingly offers videos of yachts for sale, together with a very active social media strategy and a strong presence at boat shows and events such as the ARC.
Berthon sells a huge diversity of yachts. They offer new sales of Advanced and Solaris yachts, as well as Iguana, Pearl and Windy power sales, and are well known for and experienced in selling pre-owned Discovery Yachts. Their dedicated performance and racing yacht section manages everything from former Volvo Ocean Race yachts to TP52S and IRC weapons, while the cruising listings regularly feature fully refitted 80-footers, much loved family boats and a huge choice of bluewater designs.
Hence, there is no such thing as ‘typical’ Berthon owner. However, Sue Grant says that they all share a common characteristic: “The reason that we are immensely privileged in what we do, is that our clients are passionate about yachting. This suits us very well because everyone here is equally passionate about sailing and being on the water.”
That’s not to say all owners are highly experienced. There is nothing the Berthon team enjoys more than finding the right yacht for a new owner at the start of their sailing journey – even if that’s not necessarily the boat they thought they would buy.
Having matched the right yacht with the right buyer, completing the sale is where Berthon’s expertise comes in. Berthon uses its own contract, drawn up with maritime specialist law firm Hill Dickinson. The team prides itself on a diligent approach to checking ownership and inventory documents, and a thorough knowledge of the intricacies of RCD, VAT and taxation in each territory (and if they don’t know, they take specialist advice). Client accounts are held separately by the Berthon Group, itself reassuringly a net lender to its bankers.
As Sue Grant points out, nobody really needs to buy a yacht, and there are many potential pitfalls along and stumbling blocks on the way to a sale. A little wit and plenty of wisdom smooth the way. berthon.co.uk
The beautiful Humphreys 77 Aglaia has been refitted at Berthon and is now ready for sale