Sunseeker yacht, worth $4m, impounded over legal row in Florida port
A $4m Sunseeker International 74 Sport Yacht has been impounded in a Florida port for nearly four months, during an unresolved legal row between the manufacturer, its US distributor, a broker and the yacht’s would-be owner.
US marshals arrested the vessel at the International Fort Lauderdale Boat Show 2019, after Sunseeker refused to release the yacht to its purchaser Kevin Turner, who paid $4m for the vessel. The yacht was impounded to ensure it “did not fall into the wrong hands”, according to the marshals. Sunseeker previously refused to release the yacht because it said it had not received payment from the broker Fort Lauderdale-based broker Rick Obey & Associates.
Turner filed a lawsuit against Sunseeker International, against its US distributor Sunseeker USA and against Rick Obey & Associates in May 2019. He accused the broker of refusing to ascribe to him $4m, which Turner transferred to the broker on the construction of the yacht and the manufacturer and distributor of failing to deliver the vessel.
Concurrently, Obey, Sunseeker and its US distributor are locked in another lawsuit. The manufacturer refuses to take responsibility for an alleged engine failure on an Obey-sold yacht when the yacht was out on its first voyage in 2018.
Speaking exclusively to Superyacht Investor, Turner said he had no knowledge of the underlying dispute between his broker and Sunseeker. “This was the fourth Sunseeker I purchased through the authorised dealer for my territory, all of the other transactions went smoothly. I can’t really comment about what directly happened.
‘I have been dragged into a legal dispute’
“But I can say that I have been dragged into a dispute between Sunseeker and its authorised dealer. I had no knowledge of the underlying dispute between Sunseeker and its dealer until well after I had completed paying for the boat.”
Throughout the process Turner said he has been willing to discuss a resolution with Sunseeker but claimed several attempts to contact its CEO, Andrea Frabetti, have been rejected.
Turner’s representative, Bob Allen, founding partner with Robert Allen Law, told Superyacht Investor: “The dispute can be resolved if Sunseeker stops trying to hide behind the dealer it chose and does what it should – make its customer whole. The customer has been ignored by Sunseeker, so he decided to proceed both in federal and in state courts. If the federal court doesn’t rule that the boat is already his, then his case in the state court seeks the full value of his losses.”
Allen said the case was very unusual, since similar cases in the past have resulted in the manufacturer resolving the issue for the customer. “It’s incredibly unusual for a customer to get stuck in the middle of a dispute between a manufacturer and its dealer. The normal course of things would be for the manufacturer to make sure its customer is taken care of. We’ve acted for another builder in a similar situation and that’s exactly what they did.”
‘The customer would rather have his money back’
It will not be easy to get the boat back to the customer, predicted Allen: “Frankly, the customer would rather have his money back, or a newer boat, and would give Sunseeker time to pay. But they have ignored him and are shifting their problem to him. It’s incredibly short-sighted and whoever is making these decisions for them is doing tremendous damage to the Sunseeker name. It is a mystery to almost everyone in the industry why Sunseeker would allow this to happen to one of its customers.”
Superyacht Investor approached both Sunseeker and Rick Obey and Associates to comment on the case. Rick Obey of Rick Obey & Associates said: “Sunseeker international is currently holding £3.1m-plus on behalf of Marine Consulting (Rick Obey & Associates). Marine Consulting (Rick Obey & Associates) has directed Sunseeker International to apply the balance owed and release Mr Turner’s yacht.”
Sunseeker stated, “On February 13, 2020, The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an Order in favour of Sunseeker USA Sales Co, Inc. The Court granted Sunseeker USA’s Motion to Vacate the Warrant of Arrest of its vessel, a 2020 74’ Sunseeker Sport Yacht and dismissed the complaint. The Order returns to Sunseeker USA possession of the vessel.
“The vessel was arrested by the Plaintiffs’ at the 2019 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. The Plaintiffs claimed ownership of the vessel based on a purchase agreement and payments made to Marine Consulting, Inc. d/b/a Rick Obey and Associates, a now former dealer of Sunseeker USA. The Court found that Plaintiffs were victims to Rick Obey & Associates’ undeniable breach of the purchase agreement. Sunseeker USA properly asserted that the Court was without jurisdiction and was entitled to the return of its vessel.”
The ruling by the Southern Florida District Court to lift the arrest on the yacht means that the yacht will remain in Sunseeker ownership while the case in Florida state court proceeds. Turner said that the state court case progresses because there is nothing in the arrest case which changes the underlying facts the case is based upon.
Subscribe to our free newsletter
For more opinions from Superyacht Investor, subscribe to our email newsletter.