Partner – Stephenson Harwood
T: +44 20 7809 2670
What sort of clients do you advise?
I have acted for most parties that have an interest in yachts, but mainly for banks and owners, on buying, selling, financing and building of yachts. I also act for one or two builders on building and refit projects, and have also got involved on a few bumps and scrapes, but I usually pass that sort of work to litigation specialists.
How did you end up in superyacht law?
I have always worked in maritime finance, and do a lot of commercial shipping work, so yachts were a natural extension. I did a few one off transactions over a number of years and then got to work with a very active private bank on a long stream of financings over several years, and from there I developed relationships with most of the banks in this sector. That then led to contacts with brokers and family offices, which was where the owner work came from.
What makes a good superyacht lawyer?
I think you need to be multi skilled. Good technical legal skills are a given, but you need to be able to adapt those skills for different clients. No two owners are the same, and what is important to one, is irrelevant to another. You need to build trust with owners, because you are dealing with something that is very personal to them, and quite different from their business dealings. At the same time it is an area that most owners do not know as well, as their main businesses (where they are often market leaders), so they need to feel that they can rely on your judgement. You also need to be able to get on with a lot of different people, because the yacht industry is truly international, so you often encounter conflicting cultures and approaches when negotiating deals.
What do you most like about your job?
The people. I have just described the challenges of different people and cultures, and the variety in work and experiences that that brings. I enjoy that variety, and the fact that I am always learning something new in every deal that I do. I am very conscious of the fact that I work alongside some very knowledgeable technicians, who really know how to build and run boats, so I am never afraid to ask for advice and to be educated.
What one piece of advice would you give to potential yacht buyers?
Be sure about what you want, how you intend to use it and then make sure you surround yourself with the best people who can help you find and acquire it. Make sure you know and like those people, so that you can trust them, because you will need experts to make sure you make the right decisions. Buying a large yacht is a huge investment, and big mistakes can be made. The yacht is pure indulgence and pleasure, so the last thing you want is for it to become a problem. Good preparation and research will never be wasted time.
Neil is a finance partner. He focuses on ship finance and trade finance, with a number of niche areas which has given him a breadth of knowledge and experience.
He is equally at home in a large tax driven structured leasing transaction, as in a super yacht acquisition and financing or in a structured pre-export financing. He believes the variety and breadth of his work makes him a more rounded lawyer and so able to more easily adapt to new or unusual issues and problems.
Recent deals that Neil has worked on include restructuring of several large and complex tax based leasing structures, financing of a portfolio of leased ship containers, work out of a multi vessel debt financing, advising and documenting an operating and finance lease structure for a newbuild drillship together with structuring of debt funding, negotiation of several building contracts for two 100 metre and two 120 metre plus mega-yachts, debt funding of several super yachts, and short term financing of vessels for demolition. Additionally, Neil has acted on a number of non-asset based financings for banks lending to corporates in a variety of jurisdictions and for a variety of purposes.