Phil Popham has led Sunseeker back to profit with a wealth of experience in the
luxury market and an impressive CV at Jaguar Landrover.
Photography by Sunseeker International
I last interviewed Phil at the Southampton Boat Show in 2016 when Sunseeker International had just revealed that it moved back into profit in the second quarter of 2016 and had forecasted an overall return to profit for the full year. The business also announced a massive £50
million of investment to be spent across new products, improved shipyard facilities and the continued recruitment of people over the next five years. So a year later, seated in the luxury lounge area on the bow of a beautiful Sunseeker 131 super yacht in the beating sunshine of the Monaco Yacht Show, I asked Phil how the last year had progressed, if his targets had been met, and what his new goals were.
Getting the product and the brand right was already in place says Phil. For me, setting up the infrastructure with a focus on operations and production was my key priority. We needed to be quicker and more efficient at what we did while operating at a lower cost but maintaining the
high quality we are known for while mitigating losses and staying ahead in the industry by replacing and expanding our products. Efficiency in business is key to lowering cost and keeping it consistently low.
We have made real progress in the last 12 months, reporting a strong performance in 2017, with forecasted significant growth in revenue of 10% and 15% in volume vs the previous year and a substantial improvement in profit for the overall year vs 2016. The figures are the result of a significant restructuring and refocusing of the business, together with substantial investment across new products, improved facilities and skilled people. The market reaction to the company’s compelling new products and existing model refreshes has been particularly strong and has created a robust platform for future profitable growth. The results also cement Sunseeker’s position as Britain’s biggest boat builder and the world’s leading brand for luxury performance motor yachts. What drew you to Sunseeker, and what were your aspirations for the brand?
I always wanted to be the CEO of a successful company, preferably a British one, and coming from Jaguar Landrover, I was used to working with a high-profile luxury brand, so Sunseeker was an obvious choice. I came to Sunseeker with a 3-year turn-around plan and a 5-year growth plan to launch 5 new products.
How do you plan to stay ahead of your competition and continue to sustain growth?
By investment in a long-term product plan and life cycle of each boat we produce, creating the why buy and investing in our dealer network. We are very strong in Europe and in the US, and we are looking to replicate this globally. After-sales service is key; if a customer buys one
of our products, it is of paramount importance they receive the best after-sales service possible. If their boat needs maintenance or operational assistance, I want to make sure they get it immediately and wherever they need it.
Sunseeker is a global-leading luxury brand, which is a profitable, stable business with excellent growth potential. We have a strong forward order book, with 90% of capacity sold for 2017 and 50% already sold for 2018. Our robust NPD process has helped us achieve this success, delivering exciting new models, such as the hugely successful Manhattan 52 – our fastest selling model ever – as well as the Predator 57 MK II, Manhattan 66 and the new 76 Yacht, which is already proving to be extremely popular.
How do you see partnerships working with other brands?
A new long-term partnership with Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), a charity dedicated to protecting the oceans for future generations to enjoy, is something I am very proud of. It is important to give something back. Sunseeker is a global business, and protecting the environment in which our products operate and our customers enjoy is very important to us. We also want our customers to see we are actively promoting this. Eco-Moorings and hybrid technology are all areas to explore. While hybrid technology is technically challenging, we can look at silient sailing in marinas. Before full hybrid technology with super yachts can take off, battery technology must evolve first.
Are you concerned about the future of super yacht sales, worrying that high-networth individuals may dry up?
Through extensive on-going research, we have seen the numbers of high-net worth individuals rise by 20%, and as the world develops, we are seeing that investment in the family of dealerships worldwide is paying off, so no, I have no worries in this area.
I am delighted with our performance. 2016 through to 2017 has been a defining period for Sunseeker, and we are confident of achieving strong, profitable and sustained long-term growth as we continue to invest in the business for the future. This is just the start of our journey; we will continue to invest heavily over the next five years in new product development, shipyards and our people concludes Phil Popham.
Sunseeker International is a British luxury motor yacht manufacturer. Its headquarters and main assembly facility is in Poole Harbour, at Poole in Dorset, England. The company has been making motor boats since 1969. With their passion to seek perfection and exceed boundaries stronger than ever. The brand’s enormous global strength can be greatly attributed to its commitment to constantly set new standards and exceed what came before.