Lazzara Yacht Corporation announced that it has received a capital investment from The Crest Group LLC. Terms of the transaction between the Florida builder and New York private equity firm were not disclosed.

“It is very obvious that the Lazzara family is dedicated to the continued innovation and development of exceptional yachts and we are glad to be able to be a part of it,” said Enrico Scarda, managing partner of The Crest Group, in a statement. “We expect the newly structured company to continue the success that Lazzara Yachts has enjoyed in the past.”

“This partnership with The Crest Group gives our company the capital it needs to become the worldwide leader in yachts,” said Brad Lazzara, Lazzara president, in the statement. “The freedom it gives us to focus on the design, innovation and distribution of our yachts assures us a bright future for the coming decades.”

The statement noted that the company plans to launch five new models from 52ft to 120ft over the next 24 months. The company also plans to widen its international distribution system so it has dealers in 25 new markets.

“For the last 20 years, we’ve had a family owned, primarily US focused, business model,” said Dick Lazzara, chairman, in the statement. “It’s time to broaden our horizons and bring the superior Lazzara quality, style and innovation to the entire world.”

Rich Lazzara, vice president of marketing, told IBI that the partnership with The Crest Group came at a turning point for the company. “We realized that we needed to bring in capital or we’d have to pull back and build maybe four to six boats per year,” he said. “The markets that we are strong in, North America and Europe, are obviously having trouble now. So we also need to reach other markets that are growing but where we don’t really have a presence.”

The Tampa-based company, which manufactures yachts from 76 to 120 feet, sells most of its boats in the US and Europe. But Lazzara said that in order to compete with builders like Azimut, Ferretti, Sunseeker, and Princess, it would have to grow its distribution channel and product lines beyond those regions. “Any one of those brands has more than 50 dealers and offers more than 20 models that start at 40 feet,” he said. “In market after market, that’s who we compete against. We need to have their reach and develop a similar range of products to attract new customers into the brand.”

Lazzara intends to launch smaller models, including 52ft and 64ft yachts, to compete with the European brands. The injection of capital from Crest will also allow the builder to develop new models as quickly as their competitors.

The owner of The Crest Group discovered the brand while looking for a new boat. “They’re passionate boaters, and understand the business. We’re going to do the things we’ve always been good at–like new product development and customer service,” says Lazzara. “But their strengths like financial leveraging and being able to market our products will give us an edge. We all share the same vision for the future.”

Lazzara said that the company will expand its workforce as orders pick up, but that it may also build new models in another facility. “We were as big as 500 employees during our peak year in 2008. But that number fell to under 100,” says Lazzara. “Smaller boats will require a higher run rate, so we will need more people. We’re not interested in being the largest builder out there, just the best at what we do.”

Lazzara said that the company would also open a new office in New York, while searching for independent dealers in non-US territories. “We don’t need many locations in the US,” he said. “We could grab 75 per cent of the marketplace with our offices in Ft. Lauderdale and New York. But we also need to be present in other locations.”

Lazzara recently sold a boat to an owner in Tunisia, and another in Kenya. “We also sold two boats to Venezuelan clients. Those places were completely off our radar,” he said. “We know that the world has completely shifted. We’re going to take a much wider international view from now on. Who knows how many boats will be sold in China when that market really takes off?”