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How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again

Richard hadida's plan involves a two-pronged approach: build the boats more efficiently, and eliminate discounts on boat sales..

Danielle Cutler

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Oyster Yachts CEO Richard Hadida

Just 18 months after taking the helm of a flailing sailing-yacht company, its new owner has not only met every benchmark toward getting it back in the black; he’s launched the first of a whole new line of boats in the brand’s portfolio. The new 565 range, plus increased annual production and two new classes of yacht, should help to fully right the ship, says rescuer-in-chief Richard Hadida. In the past, Oyster Yachts built a mere 15 boats a year, and Hadida, who made his fortune in casino gaming software, is betting on bringing that number up to about 25. “The business will be very healthy if that happens,” he says.

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Though his three-year turnaround plan is on track, the details got more complicated than anticipated. For example, Oyster used to buy hulls from another company that also went under, so he bought that business as well. Bringing the hull construction in-house required a big investment of capital, but it also means the company will have the capacity to increase production. His plan to steer the company out of the red involves a two-pronged approach: Build the boats more efficiently, and eliminate discounts on boat sales. “We have to protect the margin,” Hadida says. “It’s the most fundamental thing.”

To help with that, he hired Becky Bridgen, a former mergers-and-acquisitions consultant, as Oyster’s chief financial officer—and woman on the ground. “I initially came to give Richard a few hours of advice on how to acquire Oyster from the administrators,” Bridgen says, “and here I am still, one year on.” While Hadida was busy getting his life to a place where he could step over to Oyster and do his thing, Bridgen was the one to open up the shipyard’s gates and get business rolling again.

Oyster 565

Oyster 565  Courtesy of Oyster Yachts

First on the list was to make good on the orders that were already contracted or in build. “It is a fantastic brand that built amazing yachts , but we were starting out all over again,” Bridgen says. “We started with no staff but were faced with a number of owners with part-built yachts that we needed to help get completed. Our first yacht handover was four months later.” Just five months after taking over, the company had already signed contracts to build new yachts. Hadida estimates that Oyster finished 12 boats while simultaneously updating the yard with state-of-the-art systems and processes.

Next, he streamlined the number of models Oyster will offer and build. He took it down to six, ranging from 56 feet to 123 feet in size and priced from $1.76 million to $25 million, depending on size, fit and finish. “And out of those six, three of them are absolutely brand-new,” Hadida says. “We’re just producing the first ones. These are the first 565 s coming out. They’re all brand-new-designed boats, first of class.”

“We have clear milestones for delivery of results, both financial and production-wise,” Bridgen says. “We are on track at the end of year one, and the number of new yachts to deliver in the current year is on target, with the 565 being very well received at its recent launch . It’s the first of the new Oysters in the 50-foot range, our new Pocket Superyacht. Sales of this yacht and our larger 675 and 745 will see us return to profit in 2020.” At press time, Oyster was preparing to launch its new flagship, the 123-foot Oyster 1225.

The Oyster 565 launch event at Tower Bridge, London, UK. For the launch of the new award winning blue water sailing yacht the Oyster 565, a special event was held in Tower Bridge where the yacht was revealed to the guests as she sailed under the iconic Tower Bridge in the heart of London City. Photo: Brian Carlin ©

The Oyster 565 launch event at Tower Bridge, London.  Brian Carlin

Owning a shipyard wasn’t Hadida’s long-term goal or even a pipe dream. In 2006 he started Evolution Gaming , a top casino gaming-software business, which employs more than 5,000 worldwide and has a $3.2 billion market cap on the Swedish Stock Exchange. But his love for sailing and the 46-year-old British sailing marque motivated him to embark on the unexpected challenge when, in February 2018, just a few weeks after Oyster Yachts booked its biggest order ever, the yard suddenly shut its doors amid the celebration, shocking not only the sailing community but also its nearly 400 employees. “All I can gauge is that they didn’t sell the boats for the right margin. Simple as that,” says Hadida.

These days, as the sole owner of the yacht company, he has stepped away from his tech business and is fully focused on the yard. “It’s not something you can do part time,” he says. “But I also love it here.” The 54-year-old British businessman fell in love with yachting when he chartered a boat for his sister’s wedding in the Greek islands—he wanted to impress his then girlfriend, now wife, Jenny. They sailed from Athens to the wedding through a storm. When they spotted the island on the horizon after the storm broke, he thought, “‘Oh, my God. We did it.’ It was a very important moment for me,” he says. “That’s when I got into sailing, and I never looked back.” The couple waited to make it a regular part of their lives until both of their sons (now 12 and 15) could swim. Five years ago, when the younger one started swimming, they bought the Oyster 885 sailing yacht Lush .

Oyster 1225

Oyster 1225  Courtesy of Oyster Yachts

Hadida has turned his passion for sailing into a business venture and acknowledges that some people say that isn’t a good idea. “But I’m doing it, and so far, everything I’ve done has worked. There’s no question that we’re achieving what we want to achieve. And by this time next year, we will be well into the land of profitability.”

The next step in Hadida’s plan of attack is marketing, which he says the company has essentially ignored over the past five years. “Marketing is what gets us the leads, which then convert into sales,” he says. He envisions opening a brick-and-mortar shop and an online configurator clients can use to design their boats. Oyster has resumed flying its banners at the high-profile boat shows as well, displaying a new Oyster 675 at September’s Cannes Yachting Festival and the freshly refit Lush at the Monaco show . Plus, the company will continue to host its biennial World Rally, which circumnavigates the globe over a two-year period, and two annual Oyster Regattas. “When you look at the last half-dozen boats we’ve sold, everyone is from a different country—Japan, Brazil, Germany. So our customers are everywhere in the world. We have to get the name, the brand, out there to every country.”

The Oyster Regatta, Antigua, 2019

Oyster Regatta, Antigua  Brian Carlin

The next World Rally is scheduled to set sail from Antigua in January 2022 and head west, ultimately finishing back in Antigua in April 2023. The rally is a non-competitive circumnavigation that takes advantage of the best sailing grounds and is open to Oyster yacht owners, with professional shore support at key stopover points and help getting through the Panama Canal.

Looking ahead, Hadida says that society’s growing concerns about climate change are on Oyster’s side. “The young people of today are so much more educated in all things green and environmentally powerful,” Hadida says. “My firm belief is that it’s going to be less and less acceptable to drive into a beautiful bay in a large, noisy motor yacht. I think we will revert back to the oldest form of transportation—sailing.”

Any regrets about buying the company? “Not for one second,” Hadida says. “I feel proud. I feel excited. It’s a totally different thing [from Evolution Gaming]. It’s a labor of love.”

Danielle Cutler started covering yachts, marinas, and the yachting industry in 2005. Besides writing and editing yacht content for Robb Report, Danielle has worked for Yachts International and the…

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Oyster Yachts sails back to profit after remarkable turnaround

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The luxury yacht manufacturer sailed into the black with a 29 per cent year-on-year increase in turnover to £56.4 million in 2023. Hadida has invested heavily in the business to guarantee its long-term future.

The company achieved a profitable month in January and expects an overall Q4 profit for the year ending 2024. Recently appointed CEO Ashley Highfield has also highlighted major investments to enhance the customer experience, plus upgrades to the Oyster World Rally.

The company returned to profit following heavy investment in manufacturing facilities, staff and new support services. The company makes blue water sailing yachts; after launching a record 32 yachts in 2022, Oyster maintained full occupancy of all its shipyard’s build bays during FY23.

During that time, it grew staff by a third to increase skills and production capability across its three UK manufacturing sites: Saxon Wharf and Hythe Marine Park in Southampton and Wroxham in Norfolk.

It also expanded its customer services, with a global service network, refit operation, unrivalled after-sales support, crew, and charter services. Hadida, the owner and chair made a £14.5m additional investment to enable the expansion of the business.

This led to a successive record year for production, brokerage sales, and charters, as Oyster looks to continue building market share and consolidate its position as the go-to luxury blue water yachting brand.

The investment in new models, facilities and customer services explains an underlying operating loss of £16.8m in the YE23 accounts – during the fifth year of renewal for the business since Hadida stepped in to save the brand.

Ashley Highfield said: “Margins have continued to grow, and we have achieved positive EBITDA in recent months, which we expect to continue. We are increasing investment in our yachts, with focus on flawless quality and craftsmanship, to ensure they deliver unforgettable adventures where lifelong memories are made.

“We are confident Oyster is now in a strong position and has the resources and facilities to service our vessels world-wide and provide owners with truly personalised support.

“Investing heavily in the founding principles of Oyster Yachts is translating into stronger business results, whilst offering owners a lifetime of adventure, backed up by truly world-class service and support.”

With the Oyster World Rally 2026-27 already fully subscribed, it has recently announced the Oyster World Rally 2028-29. With only 30 places, demand is expected to be high.

The Oyster World Rally is a unique, fully supported circumnavigation of the planet, covering 27,000 nautical miles, 27 destinations, and 16 months in a single adventure, exclusively for Oyster owners. Oyster Yachts have completed over 20 million blue water sailing miles and over 100 circumnavigations.

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Oyster Yachts replaces CEO

Thursday, February 9th, 2023

Written by: Marine Industry News

Ashley Highfield Chairman of Oyster Yachts pictured at Saxon Wharf in Southampton. Shot for Oyster Yachts. Picture date: Thursday September 2, 2021. Photograph by Christopher Ison © 07544044177 chris@christopherison.com www.christopherison.com IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING IMAGE LICENCING FOR THIS PHOTOGRAPH: This image is supplied to the client under the terms previously agree. No sales are permitted unless expressly agreed in writing by the photographer.

Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts.

Highfield, who was previously executive chairman of the British-based luxury boat builder, has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022, following a re-organisation, and was formally offered the role last month (January 2023). The firm confirmed the news in a statement this week.

Highfield will be replaced as chair of the Oyster Yachts board by owner — and former CEO — Richard Hadida.

“One could say that this is the ultimate job swap, as Richard was previously CEO,” says Highfield. “This new structure will give Richard the opportunity to concentrate on new product development and the future range of our yachts, while I will concentrate full-time on this new CEO role, building on the excellent work of the past four years, with this next phase in Oyster Yachts’ voyage.”

Hadida adds: “I have known Ashley for literally decades and have been hugely impressed by his energy, experience, and vision across a number of businesses. In more recent years, Ashley and I have been closely working together on the successful turnaround of Oyster and the growth of its topline revenues and brand.

“Over the past few months we agreed he should step in to manage the day-to-day operation of the business, during which period he has successfully steered operations and initiated a number of new management strategies to further improve our growing business. Ashley has a deep understanding of, and buy-in to, our goals as a business, and I am truly delighted that he has accepted the role of chief executive officer.”

The Oyster 495, recent winner of the prestigious European Yacht of the Year

Hadida acquired Oyster Marine in 2018, six weeks after the shipyard went into administration, and formed Oyster Yachts as a new company.

Oyster Yachts says it is now in a great position to capitalise on the investment made by Hadida, with a strong order book and full build bays through late 2024 and into 2025 indicating his investment strategy is bearing fruit.

“It has been an honour for me to serve as chair of this great British company for the past five years, and really get to know the team, Oyster’s unique strengths, and the enormous opportunities for the business,” says Highfield. “Now, as its new CEO, I look forward to working with our impressive leadership team and our 600-strong highly skilled and talented workforce based in Southampton, Norfolk, Palma, and the US.

“We have a very clear vision for Oyster, and we will continue to deliver the very best, British-built, luxury cruising yachts in the world while ensuring that we run a sustainable and profitable business.”

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SuperyachtNews

By SuperyachtNews 21 Mar 2018

Tech entrepreneur Richard Hadida acquires Oyster Yachts

British entrepreneur and founder of evolution gaming group richard hadida becomes new owner and ceo of oyster yachts….

Image for article Tech entrepreneur Richard Hadida acquires Oyster Yachts

Following the news on 7 February 2018 that Oyster Yachts, a stalwart of the British and global yachting communities, had gone into administration with KPMG, Oyster Yachts has now announced that it is under new ownership and that a new management team has been instated. It is hoped that the acquisition of Oyster Yachts will be able to secure the future of over 400 jobs. The sale of Oyster to Richard Hadida, the entrepreneur founder of global software business Evolution Gaming Group, ensures the business can be relaunched and, hopefully, be secured for the future.

The joint administrators have confirmed that the sale of Oyster Yachts includes the assets and business of Oyster Marine Limited, and the assets of Oyster Marine Holdings Limited including its shareholdings in certain companies within the Oyster Group.

“It has been my privilege to sail an Oyster Yacht for some years. I fell in love with Oyster, the yacht, the events and more importantly the Oyster family,” comments Richard Hadida, Oyster’s new owner. “My passion for the brand has driven my decision to acquire the business. The Oyster brand is central to the yachting world.”

The new ownership will allow the company to complete works on a number of on-going projects, including two 37.45m Oyster 118s, that were put on hold when Oyster previously went into administration. The first Oyster 118 will become Oyster’s flagship vessel upon delivery later this year, the second is scheduled for delivery in 2020.

“I firmly believe that we must save this prestigious British yacht builder and continue to nurture and grow the Oyster Group for the long term,” continues Hadida. “My investment in Oyster is not merely a hobby. Oyster needs to be a sustainable business. Hard, quick decisions need to be taken. There is considerable work to be done to turn the business around and I believe with the support of Kim, Beck and Paul, who bring unique credentials to the team, not least the hugely successful turnaround of Sunseeker, we will achieve this.”

In addition to taking over the ownership of Oyster, Hadida has established a new management team to lead the future of the company. Hadida himself will act as interim CEO of the company. Hadida will be supported by Kim Stubbs, interim chief operating officer, who helped spearhead the successful transformation of Sunseeker from a loss-making position back to profit in just 24 months, Beck Bridgen as acting CFO and Paul Adamson who will act as chief transformation officer.

“The opportunity to work with Richard and a brand such as Oyster is extremely exciting,” comments Stubbs. “For the sailing community, Oyster is truly the symbol of leading yacht design. I firmly believe that we can use the experience of the Sunseeker turnaround to deliver fast and sustainable results at Oyster and we look forward to starting today to deliver on the clear promise of this remarkable sailing marque.”

David Tydeman, former CEO of Oyster Yachts, comments: “Congratulations to Richard Hadida with his take-over of Oyster Yachts, I’m sure he’ll do a great job of taking Oyster through the next chapter of its successful history – thanks to all the team for the fantastic achievements of the last chapter/decade – we’re handing Richard a great range of seven new models, a more cohesive and global brand identity than when we started as summed up by Andrew Winch at the Dusseldorf Show, ‘Oyster is the explorer brand of yachting’.”

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Highfield Named Oyster Yachts CEO

Yachting Journal

Ashley Highfield, Oyster Yachts CEO (Photo: Chris Ison / Oyster Yachts)

Ashley Highfield, Oyster Yachts CEO (Photo: Chris Ison / Oyster Yachts)

Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts. Highfield, who was previously Executive Chairman of the British-based luxury boat builder, has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022 following a reorganization, and was formally offered the role last month.

“I have known Ashley for literally decades, and been hugely impressed by his energy, experience, and vision across a number of businesses. In more recent years, Ashley and I have been closely working together on the successful turnaround of Oyster and growth of its topline revenues and brand. Over the past few months we agreed he should step in to manage the day-to-day operation of the business, during which period he has successfully steered operations, and initiated a number of new management strategies to further improve our growing business. Ashley has a deep understanding of, and buy-in to, our goals as a business, and I am truly delighted that he has accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer,” said Richard Hadida, the owner of Oyster Yachts.

Oyster Yachts is now in a great position to capitalize on the considerable investment made by Richard Hadida. The Oyster 495 recently won the prestigious European Yacht of the Year Award, illustrating the growing reputation of the Oyster Yachts marque. A strong order book and full build bays through late 2024 and into 2025 indicate the investment strategy is bearing fruit.

“It has been an honor for me to serve as Chair of this great British company for the past five years, and really get to know the team, Oyster’s unique strengths, and the enormous opportunities for the business. Now, as its new CEO, I look forward to working with our impressive leadership team and our 600-strong highly skilled and talented workforce based in Southampton, Norfolk, Palma, and the U.S.,” comments Highfield.

“We have a very clear vision for Oyster, and we will continue to deliver the very best, British-built, luxury cruising yachts in the world while ensuring that we run a sustainable and profitable business.”

Highfield will be replaced as Chair of the Oyster Yachts board by Richard Hadida. “One could say that this is the ultimate job swap, as Richard was previously CEO. This new structure will give Richard the opportunity to concentrate on new product development and the future range of our yachts, while I will concentrate full-time on this new CEO role, building on the excellent work of the past four years, with this next phase in Oyster Yachts’ voyage” concludes Highfield.

Highfield has been at the helm of some of Britain’s best known brands. During his eight years at the BBC as main Board Director for New Media and Technology, he was responsible for, amongst other things, the development and launch of BBCiPlayer and the growth of BBC Online. He then spent some seven years as CEO at Johnston Press, owners of The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and the Portsmouth News amongst some 250 other titles, during which tenure he bought the i newspaper, before joining the Oyster board in 2018. He has served on the boards of organisations as diverse as See Tickets, British Film Institute, and William Hill plc, is a non-executive Director to the Eden Project, a qualified Chartered Engineer as well as Fellow of several organizations, including the Royal Television Society. He has sailed extensively in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and would love one day to do the Oyster World Rally – though with a 15-month old son, and a 14 year old daughter - that dream may be a little way off!

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Yachting Art Magazine

After bankruptcy, a new owner for Oyster Yachts

April 10 2018

Written by Yachting Art Magazine

British entrepreneur and founder of Evolution Gaming Group Richard Hadida, becomes new owner and CEO of Oyster.

After bankruptcy, a new owner for Oyster Yachts

New team aims to prioritise rapidly re-building teams and operations, the completion of in-build projects on behalf of Oyster customers, before re-establishing Oyster as the pre-eminent name in luxury yacht building.

Oyster Yachts, announces a new owner and management team for the business, which is expected to secure the future of over 400 jobs and this iconic British sailing brand. 

The sale of Oyster to entrepreneur Richard Hadida, founder of global software business Evolution Gaming Group, ensures the business can be re-launched and secured for the long term.

Oyster was founded in 1973. Its initial focus was on marketing a range of cruiser racers, with the emphasis on performance. It has since built a reputation as the leading manufacturer of high end yachts in the sailing industry. Oyster yachts have a distinctive deck saloon style and are renowned for their quality, comfort and performance. The yacht fleet ranges from 47 to 118 feet. The Company's business is truly international and Oyster has already won two Queen's Awards.

The successful sale of Oyster to its new owner provides a significant boost to the UK yacht building industry and it is hoped will result in securing the future over 400 highly skilled jobs in Southampton and Wroxham. Oyster Yachts are considered the very peak in yacht manufacturing and design. The “Bentley of the Seas” continues to push the boundaries of innovation and high end design, providing its customers with the very best in yacht design and above all, an absolute commitment to customer service, with a unique end to end customer experience.

The new ownership enables the business to complete work on on-going projects on behalf of its customers, which had been paused during the administration process. It also means Oyster can deliver on hugely exciting new projects. This includes the new Oyster 118 – its flagship new yacht that is expected to be launched later this year. Prior to administration the Group operated with 420 employees, primarily across its two main manufacturing sites in Southampton and Wroxham. A key immediate task, for the new owner and management team is to re-build that highly skilled workforce and deliver on the projects on behalf of waiting customers.  

Richard has established a new management team to lead the transformation of Oyster. Richard will himself act as Interim CEO of the business. He will be supported by Interim Chief Operating Offer Kim Stubbs, who helped lead the successful transformation of Sunseeker from a loss making position back to profit in just 24 months. PwC will continue to support the finance function, including appointing Becky Bridgen as Acting CFO. Finally, Paul Adamson will act as Chief Transformation Officer. A former professional sailor and yacht skipper, Paul brings a wealth of Oyster yachting knowledge both as a skipper and a consultant for Oyster owners. 

Richard Hadida, Oyster’s new owner, said to Yachting Art Magazine : “It has been my privilege to sail an Oyster Yachts for some years. I fell in love with Oyster, the yachts, the events and more importantly the Oyster family. My passion for the brand has driven my decision to acquire the business. The Oyster brand is central to the yachting world. I firmly believe that we must save this prestigious British yacht builder and continue to nurture and grow the Oyster Group for the long term. My investment in Oyster is not merely a hobby. Oyster needs to be a sustainable business. Hard, quick decisions need to be taken. There is considerable work to be done to turn the business around and I believe with the support of Kim, Becky and Paul, who bring unique credentials to the team, we will achieve this, not least the hugely successful turnaround of Sunseeker.”

Kim Stubbs, COO of Oyster said: “The opportunity to work with Richard and a brand such as Oyster is extremely exciting. For the sailing community, Oyster is truly the symbol of leading yacht design. I firmly believe we can use the experience of the Sunseeker turnaround to deliver fast, and sustainable results at Oyster and we look forward to starting today to deliver on the clear promise of this remarkable sailing marque.”

Paul Adamson, CTO of Oyster said: "Having sailed Oyster Yacht’s for over 19 years including an Oyster 885 around the world in the inaugural Oyster World Rally it is an absolute privilege to join Richard’s team. Personally, like thousands of others, I adore the ‘Oyster brand’ and everything that it stands for. Between Richard, Kim & Myself we are dedicated to re-establishing Oyster as the leader of global yacht building.”

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Oyster bought out of administration by Richard Hadida Yachting

Richard Hadida Yachting has acquired  Oyster Marine  it emerged today (March 20), six weeks after the British yard went into administration.

Speaking exclusively to Boat International , the new owner and interim CEO said: "My intention is to get people back to work tomorrow, get costs down and increase the speed of the build." Hinting at a new entry-level model, he added: "Rather than making Oysters exclusive to people who have the money to buy a 50 foot (15 metre) yacht, we want to open it up to new owners. The sooner we get them into the family, the better."

"I was on holiday with [ Boat International columnist] Eddie Jordan in Cape Town when the news came through and I thought: ‘I need to do something about this,'" Hadida continued. Having sailed regularly on Jordan's Oyster 885 yacht Lush , the new yard owner has developed a love of the yard and its range, which dates back to 1973. "My passion for the brand has driven my decision to acquire the business," he explained.

Oyster recently reported its largest ever order book worth in excess of £80million, and the new ownership will allow construction to resume on its flagship project, the  Oyster 118 , which is still due for completion before the end of the year, the new management has confirmed. It is anticipated that more than 400 of the original 420-strong workforce will be rehired.

Hadida revealed that 25 further yachts are currently at various stages of completion across Oyster's two sites in Southampton and Wroxham, and confirmed that long-term design partner  Rob Humphreys  will continue his close collaboration with the yard.

"Oyster will have a much stronger and much more assured future now," Humphreys told Boat International . "I’ve known [Hadida] for more than two years now — he’s a very good sailor and passionate about the brand.

"I wrote to him early on when this all happened, but he didn’t need much encouragement. He’s a paid-up subscriber to the brand values and wants to push it forward and take it into new markets. It couldn’t be in better hands, really."

What's more, former  Sunseeker  COO and turnaround specialist Kim Stubbs has been brought on board — it is understood that his 'zero tolerance manufacturing' approach will form a key part of the new business plan.

"I firmly believe we can use the experience of the Sunseeker turnaround to deliver fast, and sustainable results at Oyster," Stubbs said. "We look forward to starting today to deliver on the clear promise of this remarkable sailing marque.”

The deal, which was concluded for an undisclosed sum, includes Oyster Marine Limited as well as Oyster Marine Holdings, meaning that the brand name and trademark, technical designs and drawings, build manuals, hull mouldings, machinery and subsidiary shares have all been purchased.

However the new company, which will trade under the name Oyster Yachts, will carry no liability for the 2015 sinking of the 27.43 metre sailing yacht  Polina Star III  and any subsequent legal action.

Speaking on behalf of the administrators KPMG, Neil Gostelow said: “We are delighted to have a concluded a sale of the business, ensuring the recommencement of yacht production together with the opportunities for employment that this will bring.”

Meanwhile, former Oyster CEO David Tydeman added: "I’m sure Richard will lead Oyster through the next chapter of its successful history with enthusiasm and care. Thanks to all the team for the fantastic achievements of the last decade — we’re handing Richard a great range of seven new models, and a more cohesive and global brand identity than when we started."

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How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again

Click here to read the full article.

Just 18 months after taking the helm of a flailing sailing-yacht company, its new owner has not only met every benchmark toward getting it back in the black; he’s launched the first of a whole new line of boats in the brand’s portfolio. The new 565 range, plus increased annual production and two new classes of yacht, should help to fully right the ship, says rescuer-in-chief Richard Hadida. In the past, Oyster Yachts built a mere 15 boats a year, and Hadida, who made his fortune in casino gaming software, is betting on bringing that number up to about 25. “The business will be very healthy if that happens,” he says.

Though his three-year turnaround plan is on track, the details got more complicated than anticipated. For example, Oyster used to buy hulls from another company that also went under, so he bought that business as well. Bringing the hull construction in-house required a big investment of capital, but it also means the company will have the capacity to increase production. His plan to steer the company out of the red involves a two-pronged approach: Build the boats more efficiently, and eliminate discounts on boat sales. “We have to protect the margin,” Hadida says. “It’s the most fundamental thing.”

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To help with that, he hired Becky Bridgen, a former mergers-and-acquisitions consultant, as Oyster’s chief financial officer—and woman on the ground. “I initially came to give Richard a few hours of advice on how to acquire Oyster from the administrators,” Bridgen says, “and here I am still, one year on.” While Hadida was busy getting his life to a place where he could step over to Oyster and do his thing, Bridgen was the one to open up the shipyard’s gates and get business rolling again.

First on the list was to make good on the orders that were already contracted or in build. “It is a fantastic brand that built amazing yachts , but we were starting out all over again,” Bridgen says. “We started with no staff but were faced with a number of owners with part-built yachts that we needed to help get completed. Our first yacht handover was four months later.” Just five months after taking over, the company had already signed contracts to build new yachts. Hadida estimates that Oyster finished 12 boats while simultaneously updating the yard with state-of-the-art systems and processes.

Next, he streamlined the number of models Oyster will offer and build. He took it down to six, ranging from 56 feet to 123 feet in size and priced from $1.76 million to $25 million, depending on size, fit and finish. “And out of those six, three of them are absolutely brand-new,” Hadida says. “We’re just producing the first ones. These are the first 565 s coming out. They’re all brand-new-designed boats, first of class.”

“We have clear milestones for delivery of results, both financial and production-wise,” Bridgen says. “We are on track at the end of year one, and the number of new yachts to deliver in the current year is on target, with the 565 being very well received at its recent launch . It’s the first of the new Oysters in the 50-foot range, our new Pocket Superyacht. Sales of this yacht and our larger 675 and 745 will see us return to profit in 2020.” At press time, Oyster was preparing to launch its new flagship, the 123-foot Oyster 1225.

Owning a shipyard wasn’t Hadida’s long-term goal or even a pipe dream. In 2006 he started Evolution Gaming , a top casino gaming-software business, which employs more than 5,000 worldwide and has a $3.2 billion market cap on the Swedish Stock Exchange. But his love for sailing and the 46-year-old British sailing marque motivated him to embark on the unexpected challenge when, in February 2018, just a few weeks after Oyster Yachts booked its biggest order ever, the yard suddenly shut its doors amid the celebration, shocking not only the sailing community but also its nearly 400 employees. “All I can gauge is that they didn’t sell the boats for the right margin. Simple as that,” says Hadida.

These days, as the sole owner of the yacht company, he has stepped away from his tech business and is fully focused on the yard. “It’s not something you can do part time,” he says. “But I also love it here.” The 54-year-old British businessman fell in love with yachting when he chartered a boat for his sister’s wedding in the Greek islands—he wanted to impress his then girlfriend, now wife, Jenny. They sailed from Athens to the wedding through a storm. When they spotted the island on the horizon after the storm broke, he thought, “‘Oh, my God. We did it.’ It was a very important moment for me,” he says. “That’s when I got into sailing, and I never looked back.” The couple waited to make it a regular part of their lives until both of their sons (now 12 and 15) could swim. Five years ago, when the younger one started swimming, they bought the Oyster 885 sailing yacht Lush .

Hadida has turned his passion for sailing into a business venture and acknowledges that some people say that isn’t a good idea. “But I’m doing it, and so far, everything I’ve done has worked. There’s no question that we’re achieving what we want to achieve. And by this time next year, we will be well into the land of profitability.”

The next step in Hadida’s plan of attack is marketing, which he says the company has essentially ignored over the past five years. “Marketing is what gets us the leads, which then convert into sales,” he says. He envisions opening a brick-and-mortar shop and an online configurator clients can use to design their boats. Oyster has resumed flying its banners at the high-profile boat shows as well, displaying a new Oyster 675 at September’s Cannes Yachting Festival and the freshly refit Lush at the Monaco show . Plus, the company will continue to host its biennial World Rally, which circumnavigates the globe over a two-year period, and two annual Oyster Regattas. “When you look at the last half-dozen boats we’ve sold, everyone is from a different country—Japan, Brazil, Germany. So our customers are everywhere in the world. We have to get the name, the brand, out there to every country.”

The next World Rally is scheduled to set sail from Antigua in January 2022 and head west, ultimately finishing back in Antigua in April 2023. The rally is a non-competitive circumnavigation that takes advantage of the best sailing grounds and is open to Oyster yacht owners, with professional shore support at key stopover points and help getting through the Panama Canal.

Looking ahead, Hadida says that society’s growing concerns about climate change are on Oyster’s side. “The young people of today are so much more educated in all things green and environmentally powerful,” Hadida says. “My firm belief is that it’s going to be less and less acceptable to drive into a beautiful bay in a large, noisy motor yacht. I think we will revert back to the oldest form of transportation—sailing.”

Any regrets about buying the company? “Not for one second,” Hadida says. “I feel proud. I feel excited. It’s a totally different thing [from Evolution Gaming]. It’s a labor of love.”

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2G Marine News

Oyster Yachts appoints new CEO

Annabelle Fox

Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts. Previously executive chairman of the British-based luxury boatbuilder, Highfield has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022, following a re-organisation, and was formally offered the role in January 2023.

Highfield will be replaced as chair of the Oyster Yachts board by the owner and former CEO Richard Hadida.

Highfield commented, “One could say that this is the ultimate job swap, as Richard was previously CEO. This new structure will give Richard the opportunity to concentrate on new product development and the future range of our yachts, while I will concentrate full-time on this new CEO role, building on the excellent work of the past four years, with this next phase in Oyster Yachts’ voyage.”

Ashley Highfield, new CEO of Oyster Yachts.

Hadida said, “I have known Ashley for literally decades and have been hugely impressed by his energy, experience, and vision across a number of businesses. In more recent years, Ashley and I have been closely working together on the successful turnaround of Oyster and the growth of its topline revenues and brand.”

Hadida acquired Oyster Marine in 2018, six weeks after the shipyard went into administration, and formed Oyster Yachts as a new company.

Hadida continued, “Ashley has a deep understanding of, and buy-in to, our goals as a business, and I am truly delighted that he has accepted the role of chief executive officer.”

Oyster Yachts says it is now in a great position to capitalise on the investment made by Hadida, with a strong order book and full build bays through late 2024 and into 2025.

Highfield continued, “I look forward to working with our impressive leadership team and our 600-strong highly skilled and talented workforce based in Southampton, Norfolk, Palma, and the USA. We have a very clear vision for Oyster, and we will continue to deliver the very best, British-built, luxury cruising yachts in the world while ensuring that we run a sustainable and profitable business.”

For more information, visit Oyster Yachts .

For more news and yachting tips, connect with us on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Source: Marine Industry News

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New appointments as Oyster Yachts enhance and strengthen senior management team

Ashley highfield, new chief executive officer of oyster yachts, has confirmed two key appointments to the senior management team. peter ingram joins as chief financial officer, with david braben obe appointed as non-executive board director at the british luxury bluewater yacht builder..

Peter Ingram joins Oyster having spent the past thirteen years at the marine electronics giant Raymarine, most recently as VP of Finance for the global group. Ingram qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young. He brings with him a wealth of experience from a variety of complex, high profile financial roles, including having been financial controller at QinetiQ Maritime.

Non-Executive Board member David Braben is a digital entrepreneur and influential video game developer and designer who founded Frontier Developments in 1993. He was CEO for 28 years before stepping down last year. Braben developed the Raspberry Pi in 2011, a revolutionary inexpensive computer used to stimulate the teaching of computer science in schools, of which over 40 million have been sold worldwide.

Ashley Highfield says: “I am delighted to welcome Peter and David to Oyster Yachts.  Their collective experience in the marine and digital industries, and successful business track records, are an incredibly valuable asset as we continue to strengthen Oyster Yachts. Their arrival coincides with our 50th Anniversary, full build-bays across all three sites, and a very strong order book out to late 2024.

“It is no secret that Oyster Yachts, like many other British companies, has been faced with some difficult challenges because of Brexit, global supply chain issues and the remaining impact of the global pandemic, which in turn delayed our turnaround plans to return the business to profitability.  My first task on becoming the CEO has been to define a clear plan on how we take Oyster Yachts to the next level.  This is based on continuing to deliver the world’s finest yachts on time, to a standard that is beyond expectation; continuing to build on our values-based customer-centric ethos and renowned reputation for customer support and quality; and finally, continuing to innovate to bring international sailors more iconic, award-winning yachts to go anywhere they choose.

“To help achieve this we have a fantastic team of over 600 skilled and passionate people who are dedicated to building our amazing yachts, a great management team and Board, strengthened by today’s announcements, which includes Owner & Chairman Richard Hadida, who remains fanatically devoted to Oyster, and who will continue to serve as a company director.  Collectively, we will continue to work closely together to ensure we have the strategy and investment required to keep innovating and growing.

Ingram and Braben join Highfield and Hadida on the Board of Oyster Yachts, along with existing Director Glynn Chambers and non-Executive Director Ivan Ritossa.

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IMAGES

  1. Highfield Named Oyster Yachts CEO

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  2. Ashley Highfield è stato annunciato come nuovo CEO di Oyster Yachts

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  3. Media veteran Ashley Highfield on turning around sleeping giant Oyster

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  4. Oyster Yachts names new CEO

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  5. How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again

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  6. How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again

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COMMENTS

  1. Meet Oyster CEO and owner, Richard Hadida

    Read the profile and find out all you need to know about Oyster Yachts CEO and owner Richard Hadida who acquired the business in early 2018.

  2. On board with Richard Hadida, superyacht owner and CEO of Oyster Yachts

    Richard Hadida, the owner of Oyster Yachts, tells David Edwards why being on board a battleship with his hero Horatio Nelson is the ultimate dream

  3. How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again

    Hadida estimates that Oyster finished 12 boats while simultaneously updating the yard with state-of-the-art systems and processes. Next, he streamlined the number of models Oyster will offer and build. He took it down to six, ranging from 56 feet to 123 feet in size and priced from $1.76 million to $25 million, depending on size, fit and finish.

  4. On board with Richard Hadida, owner of Oyster Yachts

    On board with Richard Hadida, superyacht owner and CEO of Oyster Yachts. 11 March 2019 • Written by David Edwards. Richard Hadida, the owner of Oyster Yachts, ...

  5. How Oyster Yachts' CEO Richard Hadida Plans to Rescue the Business

    How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder Floating Again Richard Hadida's plan involves a two-pronged approach: Build the boats more efficiently, and eliminate discounts on boat sales.

  6. Oyster Yachts sails back to profit after remarkable turnaround

    Oyster Yachts, whose roots run deep in East Anglia, has made a remarkable return to profit having been saved from bankruptcy by tech entrepreneur Richard Hadida in 2018. The luxury yacht manufacturer sailed into the black with a 29 per cent year-on-year increase in turnover to £56.4 million in 2023.

  7. Ashley Highfield appointed as Oyster Yachts' CEO

    Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts. Highfield, who was previously Executive Chairman of the British-based luxury boat builder, has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022 following a re-organisation, and was formally offered the role last month.

  8. Oyster Yachts replaces CEO

    Highfield will be replaced as chair of the Oyster Yachts board by owner — and former CEO — Richard Hadida. "One could say that this is the ultimate job swap, as Richard was previously CEO," says Highfield. "This new structure will give Richard the opportunity to concentrate on new product development and the future range of our yachts ...

  9. Tech entrepreneur Richard Hadida acquires Oyster Yachts

    The sale of Oyster to Richard Hadida, the entrepreneur founder of global software business Evolution Gaming Group, ensures the business can be relaunched and, hopefully, be secured for the future. The joint administrators have confirmed that the sale of Oyster Yachts includes the assets and business of Oyster Marine Limited, and the assets of ...

  10. Highfield Named Oyster Yachts CEO

    Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts. Highfield, who was previously Executive Chairman of the British-based luxury boat builder, has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022 following a reorganization, and was formally offered the role last month.

  11. After bankruptcy, a new owner for Oyster Yachts

    British entrepreneur and founder of Evolution Gaming Group Richard Hadida, becomes new owner and CEO of Oyster. New team aims to prioritise rapidly re-building teams and operations, the completion of in-build projects on behalf of Oyster customers, before...

  12. Oyster Yachts appoints Ashley Highfield as CEO

    British boat builder Oyster Yachts has named Ashley Highfield as its new chief executive officer, who stepped into the role as interim CEO in September 2022 following the departure of Rebecca Bridgen. Highfield has served as executive chairman of Oyster Yachts since 2018 following a lengthy career in news media. For eight years, he worked at ...

  13. Oyster Founder Joins Board of Directors

    Oyster founder, Richard Matthews joins the board, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. Learn about his role in the future of Oyster Yachts.

  14. Oyster Yachts

    Oyster Yachts (formerly Oyster Marine) is a British brand of luxury cruising sailing yachts established in 1973. The company is based in Southampton but with foundation and ongoing strong links to Wroxham and Ipswich .

  15. Oyster bought out of administration by Richard Hadida Yachting

    Richard Hadida Yachting has acquired Oyster Marine it emerged today (March 20), six weeks after the British yard went into administration. Speaking exclusively to Boat International, the new owner and interim CEO said: "My intention is to get people back to work tomorrow, get costs down and increase the speed of the build."

  16. Oyster Yachts announces return to profit after significant year of growth

    CEO Ashley Highfield expects margins to continue grow and a profit in Q4 YE24. The Southampton-based company, which makes blue water sailing yachts, showed a 29% year-on-year increase in turnover to £56.4m in recently released financial results for 2022-2023. After launching a record 32 yachts in 2022, Oyster maintained full occupancy of all ...

  17. How the CEO of Oyster Yachts Got the Luxury Boat Builder ...

    Richard Hadida's plan involves a two-pronged approach: Build the boats more efficiently, and eliminate discounts on boat sales.

  18. Oyster Yachts Names New CEO

    Ashley Highfield has been appointed as the new CEO of Oyster Yachts. Previously executive chairman of the British-based luxury boatbuilder, Highfield has been fulfilling the interim CEO role since September 2022, following a re-organisation.

  19. Oyster Yachts returns to profit after significant year of growth

    Ashley Highfield, CEO of Oyster Yachts. Ashley Highfield, CEO of Oyster Yachts, said: "Margins have continued to grow, and we have achieved positive EBITDA in recent months, which we expect to continue. We are increasing investment in our yachts, with focus on flawless quality and craftsmanship, to ensure they deliver unforgettable adventures ...

  20. Update from Richard Hadida CEO & Owner

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  22. Ashley Highfield

    Ashley Highfield Is Chairman of Oyster Yachts Limited (since May 2018), makers of luxury British sailing boats. He is also founder of Henley Partners limited, his vehicle for investing in and advising businesses across a range of sectors. ... Between 2011 and 2018 he was CEO of Johnston Press Plc, owners of The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post, and ...

  23. New appointments as Oyster Yachts enhance and strengthen senior

    Ashley Highfield, new Chief Executive Officer of Oyster Yachts, has confirmed two key appointments to the senior management team. Yachts Charter Brokerage Ownership Oyster World Rally. ... He was CEO for 28 years before stepping down last year. Braben developed the Raspberry Pi in 2011, a revolutionary inexpensive computer used to stimulate the ...