Oyster Yachts has been bought by a British software entrepreneur, with plans to resume boat building in Britain immediately and potentially launch a range of smaller yachts in future
Oyster Yachts has been bought from administrators by British gaming software entrepreneur Richard Hadida. Hadida won the bid from a shortlist of seven bidders. He is a keen yachtsman who has chartered Oysters and sails with motorsports boss Eddie Jordan on Jordan’s Oyster 885 Lush.
Oyster went into administration in February with the loss of around 380 jobs after the Dutch backers, HTP Investment, decided not to continue to support the company financially. The company had its largest ever order book totalling £80m, but also an unsettled £7.3m claim relating to the loss of the Oyster 825 Polina Star III from a total keel failure in 2015.
Hadida won’t disclose what he paid to buy Oyster, but he outbid a group that included four other high net worth individuals. He now owns the assets, tooling and IP, as well as the subsidiary brokerage, after market and events companies, but minus liabilities relating to Polina Star.
Hadida says the aim is “absolutely” to keep Oyster Yachts in Britain. While he admits he has no experience in boatbuilding, Hadida says he “brings some business skills and commonsense” and has surrounded himself with an experienced management team.
Kim Stubbs, an operational restructuring expert on secondment from PwC, has been appointed as COO. Stubbs previously helped turn Sunseeker from a loss making operation to a profitable business by means of cost reductions, renegotiation of supply chain contracts and the introduction of production efficiencies such as modular fit-out, thus reducing man-hours and time to market.
Also a key part of the team is Paul Adamson, an experienced professional skipper and former captain of Oyster 885 Lush. Three former directors, including MD David Tydeman have, Tydeman said: “been told our services are no longer required”.
The initial focus of the new team is to complete the work in progress on 26 builds that had stalled, including Oyster’s first 118 superyacht, due for launch later this year. On the day the contracts were signed, Hadida promised: “We are going to get them built as soon as possible, starting tomorrow.”
Oyster builds will continue in the UK , “Wroxham for the smaller yachts and Southampton for the larger yachts,” says Hadida, but the range will be thinned out. “I think there were some questionable decisions made in the range strategy, where models were very close together such as the 825 and 885, which require different tooling, and we will refine a smaller range.
“We are also actively looking, with Rob Humphreys, who is integral to this, at a couple of 40-something footers in the range, possibly a super high quality 42, because there’s an enormous market there. They would have all the mod cons and the seascape [hull] windows that Oyster is famous for.”
Hadida does not foresee the Oyster range extending at the upper limit beyond Oyster’s current 118 superyacht and says: “There is no point in having anything between the 885 and the 118.”
While aiming to reduce costs but maintain margins through new build processes, Hadida is adamant that the aim will be “safety first, always”.
“A Polina Star cannot happen again, no question. But you can introduce efficiencies and still have a safe build process,” he says. “We also need to build more quickly and make the sales cycle shorter. Eddie [Jordan] and I talked about getting a 118 but there was a four-year lead time, which is just impossible. It was so enormous I gave up the conversation. So we are losing people to sailing through that.”
Meanwhile, Oyster founder Richard Matthews, who was among the initial bidders, withdrew his bid and teamed up with Oyster’s former after sales manager, Sarah Harmer, and former quality manager, Will Taylor-Jones, to form Ipswich-based Fox’s Yacht Services which will provide a complete after sales support service. This is now in competition with the new Oyster management, a move Hadida describes as “opportunistic”.
“We have all the working drawings and IP, and we will focus on the Oyster community and after market,” he says. “I plan to bring every part of the business back to life. I am not looking to flip it, there is no exit planning, I am in it for the long run, it will be a lifetime business.”
“I see myself as a custodian of the brand and I am here for the long term. I love Oysters and the Oyster community and I think it is a heart thing, this family.
Who is Oyster’s new owner?
Richard Hadida, 52, is the co-founder and chairman of Evolution Gaming, a €100bn company specialising on live casino gaming on digital platforms. The company is headquartered in Stockholm and employs around 3,500 people, mainly in Latvia and Malta.
His interest in Oyster is more personal. “I’m a guy who loves sailing,” Hadida says. “I totally fell in love with it 25 years ago and took my [RYA] Day Skipper course and then did some bareboat chartering. Then I had two boys and as soon as they could swim I chartered Amanzi, an Oyster 56, in the Caribbean and we had the most amazing time.
“The next year I chartered Oyster 82 Ravenous and I always aspired to own an Oyster. I got close to Eddie Jordan and have done lots of sailing with him on Lush, probably 40 days a year in the last two years. I looked at buying myself and we looked at bigger boats, but none matched up to Lush – the 885 ticks every box.
“I had no idea the company was going into administration but I actually heard about it when I was on holiday with Eddie and I felt it was my calling.”