Offshore Investments

By Matusow, Jamie | Chief Executive (U.S.), June 2005 | Go to article overview

Offshore Investments


Matusow, Jamie, Chief Executive (U.S.)


Chartered yachts offer a private resort on the serene high seas.

Les Biller, the now-retired chief operating officer and vice-chairman of Wells Fargo, was headed for vacation with his wife when he learned that he was scheduled to attend several upcoming board meetings. Fortunately, the couple had chartered the luxurious 95-foot motor yacht "Nicole Marie" for 10 days to cruise through pristine Alaskan waters. Biller was able to meet his business obligations via the yacht's on-board communications equipment while finding time to fish for halibut and salmon.

"Chartering a yacht is the most wonderful way to see any part of the world and recharge your batteries," says Biller, who rose early every morning of his trip to watch the sunrise. "Each day, I gazed out on something different along the rugged Pacific Northwest shoreline -sometimes bears, or swooping bald eagles. For dinner one night the chef barbecued a salmon we had caught that afternoon. When it occasionally came time to dial into a conference call, I did so -and undoubtcdly, had the best view."

Biller's experience illustrates why the yacht charter industry has grown so quickly over the past decade. Charter yachts serve as mini floating five-star resorts, complete with private chefs and crews devoted to fulfilling your every whim. Services and amenities vary depending on the style you prefer, as well as what your wallet will bear, but all provide executives with what many crave most: privacy, luxury and freedom. Unlike guests at land resorts or on large cruise ships, charter guests have complete flexibility and can change their plans instantly, waking up each morning, as Biller did, to a new vista. What's more, yachts can access secluded bays and coves that large ships just cannot maneuver.

Ken Kies, managing director of the Federal Policy Group for Clark Consulting, Washington, D.C., says he and his family were able to visit 10 islands in 10 clays during a recent trip to the Caribbean on the 120-foot Broward "Sovereign." "My wife hates to pack up and move every few days, so it was ideal. Each location offered something different, so everyone in the family had plenty to do, whether it was shopping or snorkeling." Like Biller, Kies appreciates the satellite communications, which he says acts as "a security blanket." "My BlackBerry doesn't always work on a boat out in the water," he says. "When you run a company, yon can't just walk away and hope everything goes well."

Kies became hooked on the yacht vacation lifestyle and chartered "Sovereign" twice more. On a recent trip to the Bahamas, Kies gushes, "Every morning was the same-perfect!" Each day he woke up to a new spectacular setting, and then he was served his breakfast of choice while selecting from a full range of activities for the day, from water sports to golf. He also chartered for corporate purposes when he entertained guests during the 2004 Republican Convention in Manhattan. He and his staff stayed on the yacht and ran 11 events in five days. "It was something different," he says. "Whereas other groups held parties in museums or hotels, we could sail out past the Statue of Liberty and view the skyline."

Chartering Your Yacht

Until recently, yachting was primarily the pastime of the very wealthy, and only those who knew someone who owned a yacht were able to spend time onboard. According to Jonathan Beckett, president of worldwide yacht specialists Nigel Burgess, it was generally frowned upon to put your yacht on the charter market 10 to 20 years ago. But the cost of maintaining a yacht (as much as $2 million to $3 million per year for a 200-foot yacht) has now made chartering revenue very attractive, especially since there is a growing market of people who can afford it. The income from charter has enabled owners to upgrade, and Beckett says the trend continues for newer, bigger yachts. Where 100-foot vessels once seemed large, many of today's "super yachts" reach 200 feet or greater and are often now called "mega yachts. …

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