Jim Evans on the good, bad and ugly of yacht broking

Jim Evans, MD SuperYachtsMonaco.

Jim Evans set up SuperYachtsMonaco in 2008.

Jim Evans knew the game was up when the captain took him aside.

“You’re too clumsy, too rubbish to be a deckhand. You should be a broker,” said the skipper.

Evans had come from teaching diving in the Maldives, and while life on the 50m explorer yacht Senses had been fun, it was “intense”. A year was enough.

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Evans left after 366 days and found his way to managing yachts for Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich before ending up in a brokerage job with Titan, Hyde and Torrence in London.

Not that broking was the easy option. The first boat he sold was the 25m wooden Admiral Saratooga. “It made me just enough to buy a packet of chips,” Evans tells us.

‘Decent deal’

Now, the co-founder and MD of SuperYachtsMonaco has just landed another winner, representing the buyer in the purchase of Heesen’s 50m Project Jade, which will be renamed ALP.

“It was a client looking for something immediate and new,” he says. “They wanted something completely unused, not even slept on.”

They were eyeing up Baglietto’s T52 Hull No. 1 but due to personal reasons, the client had to slow down during the deal and it was bought by someone else. The search swung to Heesen.

“They wanted something for the summer and to get on with it, and Heesen were keen to sell so there was a decent deal, everyone was happy and the boat will deliver at the end of May,” says Evans.

Jim Evans sold Heesen superyacht Project Jade.

Jim Evans sold the 50m Heesen superyacht Project Jade in March.

‘Sleepless nights and stress’

They all count, but Evans says his “standout” deal was for the 59m Trinity yacht Bacarella in 2010.

“If you talk to any broker their personal favourites will be the ones where they overcame enormous adversity to pull it off,” he says.

“Bacarella was a deal that got bogged down because the client needed finance to complete. It was post the financial crisis and banks weren’t that keen to lend on frivolous things like yachts.”

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It was, he says, a “very difficult time with an enormous amount of sleepless nights and stress”. He had endless conversations with banks but was getting nowhere and had “reconciled in my head and with my bank manager that the deal was never going to happen”. Eventually, everything aligned.

“It was a great pleasure being there with the family office guy at the closing meeting in Miami,” he says. “We just went straight out and rented a deep-sea fishing boat to celebrate. We caught some massive fish. I don’t know what they were, I was there for the socialising!”

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Not all deals work out, of course. A stolen napkin and a DNA test scuppered one deal for Evans.

“A famous person was buying a yacht but at the 11th hour somebody took his napkin from a restaurant and used the DNA to prove a paternity suit,” he says.

“The yacht deal collapsed because it wasn’t a good look – buying a very expensive yacht having refused to accept the paternity of a child for however many years. I swore profusely. But what can you do? These things can happen.”

‘Organic growth’

Evans set up SuperYachtsMonaco in 2008, initially as an outlet to sell yachts from Germany’s Nobiskrug shipyard, which had just been bought by a client of his who persuaded him to leave his role as a broker at the fledgling Y.CO company.

“Then the financial crisis struck minutes later and we had a change of plan and we ended up being just pure brokers,” says Evans.

The pivot, and some repurposing, enabled the business to survive the global downturn and SuperYachtsMonaco is now up to a team of 22. “For us it’s all about organic growth,” says Evans. “Our financial charts, apart from Covid, show a consistent upward trajectory so we’re happy.”  

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Studying sales figures and growth charts might not seem like a natural fit for an English literature graduate. But Evans says organisation, clear and concise communication, the ability to keep meetings “out of the weeds”, open-mindedness to seek counsel, integrity and, crucially, people skills count for just as much as business qualifications.

“You need to be on top of the detail but you shouldn’t underestimate the social aspect of being a broker,” he says. “These purchases are not business-driven decisions and there has to be some element of pleasure in it. You wouldn’t want to spend 40-odd million euros and not enjoy the process. Part of the skill of being a broker is understanding it and pitching it right to a client. If some want a highly detailed technical report you better provide it, but some just want to drink wine and talk about it general and where they’re going to go.”

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Superyacht Senses, owned by Larry Page of Google.

Evans worked as a deckhand on the superyacht Senses.

‘Too many emails’

And for Evans it is that “human interaction, the people aspect of it that really motivates me”.

“The things you can learn from good clients, who are particularly interesting or leaders in their sector, about business, the world, geopolitics, I find that fascinating,” he says.

“I remember one of my clients saying that I wrote too many emails.  ‘Go and drink wine with your clients, they want to talk to you, they don’t want loads of emails from you,’ he said. It’s actually pretty good advice, turn up, show your face, talk to the client, have a coffee or a glass of wine.”

Then there is the mental satisfaction that comes with successfully navigating a tricky deal.

“The movement of the pieces in the puzzle to get a deal done, finding solutions, dealing with deal-derailing moments, solving them and keeping a deal on track, managing people, egos, this is particularly interesting,” he adds.

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From Evans’ watchtower in Monaco, the market is proving “less hesitant” than forecast heading in to 2024 and across the company, the pipeline is promising. “Everyone is beavering away doing things which look like real bits of business,” says Evans, whose projects include working in a new-build 60m for an established client and representing Baglietto T52 Hull No. 40 with Alex Clarke of Denison.

Headwinds he identifies include the geopolitical tensions in the Red Sea, which are “definitely a negative” for the burgeoning Dubai market and the innovation gap left by imaginative Russian owners, such as Abramovich. “It’s a shame in a sense, some of those clients were very forward-thinking and would spend money on technology innovations,” says Evans.

But overall, he’s buoyed by “speaking to clients brainier than us” who say that interest rates “surely must” come down in the next year or so. “Credit will return to the market and you’ve got to think that will help,” he says.

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