Sunseeker deal: Irish investors take majority stake in yacht manufacturer


IRISH INVESTORS, led by private equity players FL Partners, have taken a majority stake in luxury yacht and motorboat manufacturer, Sunseeker, for €30 million.

FL Partners, headed by Peter Crowley and Neill Hughes, confirmed yesterday it had joined forces with a group of Irish and British investors to provide £25 million (€29.9 million) in new capital to Sunseeker, in return for a significant majority stake in the company.

Sunseeker is based in Poole in Dorset in southern England. It has been manufacturing high- end yachts and motor cruisers for more than four decades. Sales last year topped £300 million, which was slightly ahead of 2008 and 20 per cent up on 2007. The company’s chief operating officer and managing director designate, Stewart McIntyre, said yesterday that sales remained consistent through the recession and that its order books were strong.

High-profile Sunseeker owners include one-time Formula One boss Eddie Jordan and actor Nicole Kidman. Its craft have featured in a number of recent James Bond films, including Die Another Day.

Under the terms of the FL deal, Sunseeker co-founder Robert Braithwaite will remain the largest single shareholder outside the private equity firm, and will be president and non- executive chairman of the overall holding company, while Mr McIntyre will take over as managing director.

Mr Crowley and Mr Hughes will join the board. They will be joined by Andy Macfiel of Souter Investments, the investment vehicle controlled by transport entrepreneur Brian Souter of Stagecoach. Sunseeker recently spent £40 million on expanding its facilities in Poole to allow it to deliver yachts of up 40m in length and to pave the way for plans to built craft of up to 50m. FL is refinancing Sunseeker’s debt with a package provided by Australian bank Macquarie and specialist investor, Haymarket Financial.

FL owns the Racing Postnewspapers and website and holds a strategic stake in broadcasting group UTV. It owns two Irish manufacturing businesses – mattress and beds specialist Kaymed and ATA Group, which designs and produces pneumatic tools.