By David Robinson
Italian superyacht builder Privilege, which has had a run of financial challenges and some labour issues in recent years, is back in business. Within the next six months the current 127m (416ft) project that is around 55% complete will be launched and the keel of a 150m (492ft) has already been laid.
Civitavecchia-based Privilege is owned by Mario La Via, who has an established track record of large yacht and resort project designs in various international markets. Since April he has been working with Benjamin Meggs, an American yacht broker who, until his now full-time involvement with Privilege, owned Bluewater International Yacht Brokers in Ft Lauderdale.
“I am now almost at the end with Bluewater since getting involved with Privilege,” he told SB. “We have a client for the 127, which by the way we are now calling the 130, but he wants the 150m so he is paying monthly for that and then when we sell the 127 he will provide a chunk of money to help us fund ongoing work. We have a few people interested in the 127 but we are also talking with others about a 180m (291ft).
Meggs continues: “Privilege started in 2007 using land provided by the Italian government on an initial 64-year long-term lease. The yard was set up after Mario was going to build the 127m in Greece, but the government asked him to stay in Italy and build it here. When opened, the yard could only build up to 130m (427ft) but following the annexing of a road we can now build up to 210m (690ft).”
The financial challenges, and the subsequent labour issue, were caused because one bank involved in the funding of the 127m was hit by the Libor problems and two Italian banks also had financial difficulties that resulted in the funding coming to an end because there was an arrangement among five Italian banks to fund the project but if one could not maintain it then all five would stop. Meggs also mentioned 146 design modifications on the 127 which had cost around €120m.
“From December 2012 to the spring of this year,” Meggs adds, “Mario self-funded the 127 but he could not keep it up. We have three account reports including one from Ernst & Young which states the 127 is 82% complete. In reality it is about 55% complete but the funding to complete will be forthcoming from banks in the next few weeks. I am actively negotiating to sell the 127 so our client will buy the 150m and we can progress that project. With the other potential clients I am talking with I am hopeful we will fill the third building pad we have by the end of the year.”
The design of the 127m was largely done by Abdeslam Laraki at Laraki Yacht Design, but his design need work to make it fully suitable for a marine project and this was done by the in-house Privilege team.
As to future designs, Meggs says: “We are pleased to work with any designers and after the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show I will visit the UK to talk with a number of designers about the projects we have under negotiation.”
Apart from the 127/130 and the 150, these include the 180 under discussion; concepts for a 190m (624ft) and 210m and a modern version of the Le Grande Bleu expedition yacht of 125-130m (410-427ft). Privilege has a core workforce of some 44 people and uses sub-contractors to supplement. “By November I expect that we will have 500-600 subcontract workers to support the core team.”