Pitasso: ‘There’s always a buyer somewhere on the planet’

Eleonora Pitasso, sales broker, Burgess

Ignoring Eleonora Pitasso won’t work. She’s just not the kind of person to take “no” for an answer.

I like to open doors. If I can’t open the door, I go by the window,” she says. “I always find a way to get in.”

Pitasso is a sales broker and shipyard coordinator for Burgess and lives by the motto of her first boss who kept her looking forwards.

“There will always be a buyer somewhere on the planet and there is always a boat that matches his or her wishes,” she says.

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That last line is telling. Pitasso is very hot on avoiding entrenched industry-speak that assumes owners are men.  As a female in sales (“charter is a more women-dominated world”), she acknowledges she is in the minority, but she thinks a “generational shift” is changing the landscape and burying old stereotypes.

Talent is not a gender,” she says. “With Gen Z stepping into the junior roles and Millennials in the mid-tier – the approach to culture, to life, it’s completely different. The industry is becoming less gender-based and more skills-based.”

She adds: “You need a huge span of patience to deal with some clients and probably women have a softer approach. Some clients really like that.”

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The 32m Ribelle is a 2017 Vitters for sale with Burgess.

The 32m Ribelle is a 2017 Vitters for sale with Burgess.

‘Sales is a marathon’

The Monaco-based Italian, who has degrees in international affairs, diplomacy and geostrategy from the University of Trieste and the European Institute in Berlin, says the sales market is “a bit quieter” given geopolitical issues but remains upbeat that inquiries are increasing as winter recedes.  “I always tell my colleagues the sun is in our hearts,” she says.

In January, Pitasso, who hails from Italy’s Friuli region, sold the 32m semi-production San Lorenzo Deep Blue III in a deal which began with talks at a yacht show in September 2022 before going on the market in June last year.

She’s also representing the 45m converted trawler Scintilla Maris, which has been refitted from the keel up into a “niche” expedition yacht for owners who “like the journey of building”.

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‘Trust in yourself’

Like all good brokers, Pitasso has had her share of letdowns, such as the time she was an hour away from signing the deal on a 52m Amels new build (later sold as Lady Engelberg) during the 2009 financial crisis.

We were at the lawyer waiting for the signature and the client called and said, ‘Guys, I’ve lost the budget of the boat in one night’. So he bailed out from the deal,” she says.

It’s the resilience forged in the fires of disappointment, and the hard-won knowledge that “sales is a marathon”, that keeps her going. She’s also learned to “never abandon the little prospects because sometimes that person grows with you”.

It’s stress management, frustration management, because it’s a job where you can have more failures than wins,” says Pitasso, who is fluent in Italian, French, English and Spanish and also speaks German, Dutch and some Russian.

This is where you build up a lot of your self-confidence, your trust in yourself and in what you’re doing and are ready to answer your clients’ requests because clients today are very much more aware than 15 years ago.”

She adds: “If you are a salesperson, you call the client. If you’re an expert, the client calls you.”

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The converted trawler Scintilla Maris is now a luxury expedition yacht.

The converted trawler Scintilla Maris is now a luxury expedition yacht.

‘Call of the jungle’

Pitasso joined a small, boutique brokerage in Monaco in 2006 after turning down a chance to study for a PhD alongside working for the Italian Ministry of Defence. “I’m a romantic person, I was in love with a French boyfriend based in the south of France,” she laughs.

She assisted her boss in sales, charter and project management, learning the industry quickly before going on to become chief commercial officer in Europe and Russia for Sea Vision, a superyacht supply company.

I could really see the yachting industry from the bottom upwards, because when you’re a supplier you know that you are the most essential component of the construction process,” she says, adding she encountered more social and professional challenges in the supply industry.

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From there she spent six months in charter with Fraser Yachts before joining Burgess’ charter arm. After two and a half years the “call of the jungle” was too strong and in 2018 she moved back into sales. She combines her role as a broker with acting as the sales team’s interface with the shipyards, monitoring new-build availability and gathering all necessary information.

Sometimes we can have a heads up and say, ‘Listen guys, there will be a 50m coming on the market, delivery 2025, we need to be on,” she says.

We had good deals signed just because there is already a system now in place that gives much more focus for the broker and less fuss and waste of time. You don’t want to waste time in this industry. It’s important.”

Daily victories

According to Pitasso, there is a “good spike” in the 30-50m market but the real “sweet spot” for clients is the 70m segment.

Everybody is looking for a 70m project and there is none available on the market,” she says. “It’s unbelievable how this is a size that was so neglected in the past and actually it’s becoming the real size to have and to own because a 70m yacht in terms of operations, design, comfort can offer everything and there are no docking constraints.”

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Given her academic background Pitasso remains highly curious and keen to learn about business, corporate culture and the wider world.

When you confront yourself with large corporate realities, you feel that you are a little ant in the universe – albeit a little lucky ant because yachting is an amazing sector,” she says.

But there are realities which we can apply for our company. It’s just taking up ideas and inspiration.

“Can I evolve further? Can I progress further? And this wakes me up every morning. The thought that today’s the day that you’re going to go for it. Maybe it’s not going to be a great day, but who cares? You’re going to have your daily victory.

“I love life. I’m grateful for everything that life gives me together with the challenges.”

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