A conversation with the EYI yacht broker Alessandro ‘Alex’ Mazzoni brings back vivid memories of the glory years of yachting: a fascinating world brimming with opportunity, on which the omnipresent technology that now dominates everyday life had yet to make an impact. A time when business was done and deals struck based on character and professionalism, sometimes even on a handshake.
EYI yacht broker Alex Mazzoni began his career in the yachting business as a very young man and quickly ventured beyond Italian borders to the Principality of Monaco and the very highest end of the international brokerage business. Mazzoni’s life is ruled by his passion for the sea with hundreds of craft sold on all the world’s seas. We spoke to him about his memories of the glorious golden era of yachting and the legendary names from those days. His answers were both moving and made us dream of those great times.
You have enjoyed a long and very prestigious career.
What is your favourite memory or memories?
One of my fondest memories is of a dinner in a little restaurant in Dolceacqua, during one of the first Sanremo Charter Shows in early 1990s. Jane Buffington, an important American broker and Fraser Yacht partner, who I had met when selling a new 40m Christensen, just said to me point blank: “Alex, the Fraser partners and I have decided to sell the company and we thought that you guys (myself and my three partners) are the right people to buy it”.
I almost choked on my food when I heard that! I took out my wallet and said: “Thanks, Jane, but this is all the money I have!” We were only starting out had just moved to Monaco where life was expensive even back then.
But the next day, I spoke to my partners and we joked out it. However, a year later, we were Fraser Yacht’s new owners! It was an expensive, challenging contract, but it marked the start of the best adventure of my life!
Selling a yacht is no easy task.
What was your most improbable and unexpected sale?
There is a story behind every sale.
But that makes me think of a client I had already sold a boat to but who called me one evening at the end of August. He had seen a 30m sloop he really liked, riding at anchor off his villa in Sardinia. Two days later, I sent him a DHL package with all of the documentation relating to the boat (no such thing as computers, cell phones or digital photos back then!). We visisted the yacht together on September 15th and on the 30th, we concluded the sale in Monaco.
I went on to sell two more boats to the same client.
Another memory: a Spanish family put me in charge of the sale of a 49m Perini sailing yacht. One day, as I was driving from Monaco to Milan, I got a phone call (this was the era of car phones) and a voice said “Good day, this is Mr X (a very famous Italian industrialist!). I know you are selling this Perini. Could we discuss it in my office tomorrow?” An hour after my visit to his office the following day, the client had already decided to buy the yacht. The negotiations, which were complicated by a plethora of lawyers, concluded 40 days later.
If you had to choose the golden era of yachting to talk about, which period would you choose?
Definitely the years from 1980 to 2000. Formidable times when buyers were still competent sea lovers. The internet still hadn’t become widespread and brokers were the only source of information, so people built up a relationship of trust with their regular broker.
I sold many Perini, Benetti, Codecasa, Baglietto, Sangermani and Sanlorenzo craft to passionate clients who were definitely very thorough but who placed huge importance on the purchase they were making. Most of all, I had the satisfaction of selling one, two, three boats to the same client in the space of a few years. Extremely rewarding indeed!
You have taken part in many, many yachts shows all over the world. What does the future look like for these events in this digital world and how valuable are they?
The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show was the same kind of adventure: in the first few editions, we also took the office apart and then set up in a tent on the other side of 17th Street. In the early years of the Antigua Charter Show, we used to rent a warehouse with four rooms in English Harbour and hang out the Italian flag and an “Italian Home” sign. Back then, it was practically all sailing yachts and they were very rarely over 30m.
At the time, it was very important to know the boat physically. It still is today, if you want to be a proper professional. The different now is that clients can see the object of their desire directly on the web or YouTube. These days, clients are looking for boats that look good at anchor, a prestigious floating home, and so boat shows have lost some of their importance. That said, I have never brought any of my clients to the Monaco Show: it would have been like bringing a child to a toy shop and then watching their head explode.
Monaco, Fort Lauderdale, Italy… where do you see the future of yachting?
The future of yachting will be significantly informed by the events of recent months. My prediction is that, given increasingly stringent regulations in terms of safety and the advent of green yachting, the size of the craft themselves will start to shrink again. We will go back to smaller yachts with lower costs involved. Management budgets have grown exponentially and the cost of the crew is now the largest item at the end of the adventure. I can’t predict which market will dominate after this sad story but I would think that China, America and the traditional European markets will be the main players on the yachting scene.
Read Alex Mazzoni’s advice about the beautiful Benetti Classic Freemont.