LIVE - SANCTUARY COVE INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW: RIVIERA

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: David Lockwood

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  • Trade-A-Boat

Another day, another big announcement. But today was different: it was the first press conference for Australia’s biggest boatbuilder, Riviera, after it put itself into voluntary receivership two weeks ago. And the announcements were made during one of the biggest boat shows in the Southern Hemisphere, no less.

LIVE - SANCTUARY COVE INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW: RIVIERA
LIVE – SANCTUARY COVER INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW: RIVIERA
Besides attending the press conference, Tradeaboat delved behind the scenes, interviewing those at the Riviera stands, and talking with many of the long-standing brand-loyal dealers. Afterwards, we came away with the impression they were all quietly confident that there is a future for the iconic brand.

Riviera customers are loyal, love their boats and brand to the point some of the well-heeled have even lodged their expressions of interest in acquiring the boatbuilder. And orders were taken, with two sales of the news 5800 Sport Yacht confirmed, we’re told. Plus doubtless many more boats in days to come.

There’s no question the product is a good one, with the most extensive national dealership of any boat company in Australia, said Riviera, and a range of boats that has long been considered ideal for local boating.

Over to Riviera’s Chief Executive Officer, John Anderson (pictured above right at the press conference), who has a 24-year career in the boating industry, beginning in the US with Sea Ray as sport yacht sales co-ordinator.

In 1997, Anderson was appointed President of the Four Winns boatbuilding company. After a take-over by marine industry giant Genmar in 2000, John more than doubled Four Winns’ revenues and boosted production to more than 7,000 boats over the next five years.

The key thing here is that Anderson has been through a receivership with Four Winns. "I have been through this [a receivership]," Anderson told Tradeboat, "but I never thought I would l have to draw on my experience with this kind of thing again."

Anderson pointed to Riviera’s big dealer network and the fact it’s such a strong brand that he says the company will resurface stronger than ever after it has been restructured in such a way that it can operate in the current climate and still be profitable.

So what new Rivieras made a splash at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show? The focus is on the new 5800 Sports Yacht, a boat designed for global markets with triple Volvo Penta IPS engines and scope for custom engine fitout in the future.

But the proposed new range of Riviera Motor Yachts is even more daring. Riviera intends to build its new ‘superyachts’ at a Taiwan yard with experienced staff who have worked on Marlows, Horizons and Hargraves before. Riviera has drawn up a new range of semi-custom motoryachts in model designations of 73, 75 and 85 (LOA 91ft).

Meantime, Grand Banks, which is still distributed by Riviera in Australia, chimed in with news of the new GB41 with Zeus pod drives, which Tradeaboat recently tested. Riviera said it still intends to act as Australian agents for the UK-built Princess boats as well.

Perhaps the crowing moment was when the South Australian husband-and-wife owners of Riviera’s new 70 (hull number #3) gave a speech explaining why they believe in the brand. They then took the keys for their new boat in front of a packed audience, after saying they were wrapped in the performance of their former Riviera 60 in SA’s rough waters.

Riviera said the imminent restructuring of the company would not be without pain and further redundancies. In essence, the boatbuilder will put itself in a position where it can build a minimum of boats or crank up production to suit the economy without being held to ransom by a mountain of debt.

Full marks for the clever "I ? Riv" promotional campaign. It seemed to be a hit with the local audience, many of whom were crawling over Riviera boats as they have done during previous boatshows.

When asked what was the cause of Riviera’s current circumstances — that is, being in receivership — Chris Campbell (pictured above left at the press conference), the Deloittes partner handling the matter, told Tradeaboat that 20/20 is a wonderful thing.

"So, are the private equity companies who bought Riviera to blame for grandiose plans that didn’t come off?" we asked. Campbell pulled a wry smile. "No comment." – David Lockwood.

 


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