When a long-lost client telephoned me from Washington a couple of years ago I was delighted. He had been reading Boat International magazine on a flight and noticed that I had left my previous brokerage to start working for Camper & Nicholsons. When the global recession began he had instructed me to sell his small fleet of yachts from 88 'to 112' as quickly as possible, recognizing that assets such as these would quickly lose value and that by liquidating them he would be in a strong position to Survive and even prosper during the turbulent times ahead. Now, he told me, he was back in the market and would like me to help him find his next yacht.
There was a small hitch though. As a result of massive growth in his business he had decided to employ somebody to deal with all of his acquisitions; Property, planes, businesses, and yes – boats.
This "somebody" was an accountant.
Now I have nothing against accountants. They serve a useful purpose by doing a job that most of us find tedious and dull. A good accountant can save a company substantial amounts of money through wise tax planning and up to the minute advice. There are certain decisions that an accountant should NOT be involved with though, and buying a yacht is one of them.
Quite honestly I would no sooner invite my accountant to a Boat Show than invite my mother to a strip club, or ask an accountant to help assist in a yacht purchase than ask my Mother to assist in finding me a girlfriend. Fundamental practices such as a curvaceous body, a sexy smile and how much fun she is on a date would be totally overlooked in favor of other less important attributes such as reliability, longevity, and … ahem … a two year warrantee. A mother will make a decision based on thought and logic, a man on the other hand will base his decision upon feelings and passion. A friend of mine once told me that his mother burst into tears when he introduced her to his girlfriend simply because she did not like her. Strange – that's exactly the same reaction that my client's accountant had when I told him what the running costs of a 46 meter yacht are!
And this raises the rather interesting question of "why do financially successful people buy yachts?" How is it that a man who has spent years developing an enviable ability to create profit and to avoid losing money will suddenly purchase an object that will do the exact opposite?
I discussed this topic with a yacht owner over a decade ago when I worked as Sales Manager of the Ferretti Custom Line shipyard. The client had an insatiable appetite to negotiate the price of every change order and clearly felt that controlling costs was every bit as important as pursuing profit. One evening over dinner the client spoke about how hard he had worked to attain his wealth and said that as a result he did not spend money without giving due consideration to every purchase, both small and big. I ventured to ask what "due consideration" had led him to purchase a superyacht, knowing that the annual running costs alone would fund a small military coup?
Not very diplomatic of me I know … but I just had to ask.
A grin spread across the client's face. "David", he said, "you just can not imagine." "Everything you do on a yacht is so much better. I eat on a yacht and the food tastes better, I go to bed on a yacht and I sleep better, and David" he said as the grin spread further "Sex. Is so Much better. On a yacht ".
Just a year or so after that conversation I was able to put these comments to the test when, in a moment of extraordinary generosity, another client invited me on board his 100 'yacht for a week long vacation. Just for clarity, and in the knowledge that my wife will probably read this article, I should add "Yes. This was the week that we went to Mallorca together."
People talk about spending "quality time" with their partners, as opposed I imagine to the "poor quality time" that can be passed in front of the television too exhausted to converse after a day of fighting fires in the work place and, if you Have young children, possibly in the living room too. If the quality of time can be measured in the same way that we measure the quality of food and beverage then "yacht time" is an acorn fed Iberic Pata Negra, it is shavings of Italian white truffle from Alba on a plate of the finest pasta , It is a dish of Danish oysters washed down with a chilled bottle of Chablis, an experience so intensely enjoyable that for the few brief moments that you are partaking of its pleasure nothing else matters, no problems come to mind, no difficulties exist. You are there, in the moment, together, and happy.
Another yacht owner expressed it well when he spoke of his Grandfather, a remarkable man who had started his business in a garden shed and built it to a commercial empire employing over 50,000 people. The family possessed peculiar properties throughout the world and stayed regularly in the finest hotels that this planet has to offer, and yet, he said "the only time I ever see my Grandfather relaxed is on his yacht".
This is a common theme when talking to the families of highly driven CEOs and business owners. They just never completely unplug from their business, not at their city home, not in their country residence, not in their Malibu beach house, not even in a penthouse suite in the Burj Al Arab. But they do relax on their yacht. It may take a week to resist answering their cellphone, and another week to stop checking their emails, but by the third week they have finally synchronized to "yacht time". Stress levels return to normal, priorities come back into focus, food tastes better, sleep is deaf, and life's most intense pleasures are magnified to unforgivable proportions.
And herein lies the secret that unlocks the disciplined hold that many high net worth individuals keep on their spending power. Business success and financial rewards are exhilarating and leave a legacy that may benefit generation after generation of offspring as well as providing work for an army of illuminated accountants. The frantic intensity of this lifestyle needs a balance though, a pressure valve that brings life's PSI back to a safe level. A yacht is not a luxury for these men and women, but a necessity – albeit expensive – to enrich their lives in a way that is not quantifiable on a balance sheet, to receive a return on investment that is not measured in currency or share values .
My advice to the world's UHNWIs who may be reading this and thinking of attending the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show this year is simple.
Leave your accountant behind.