The organiser of the Prestige Yacht Auction has confirmed more than 20 yachts from 12m to 78m (39ft – 256ft) will be on auction during the Antibes Yacht Show. Now, Tim Morley is working hard to incorporate the glamour, excitement and buyers of an international fine-arts auction into his live event.

In February, Morley decided that selling yachts in such an unconventional way at a high-end setting like the Antibes show might work, especially in the current market. But it had to be framed the right way, as an exclusive event, rather than a fire-sale for distressed assets.

“We’re positioning this as almost a privilege to attend this auction,” Morley told Superyacht Business. “We don’t need hundreds of people. We need serious buyers.”

After having secured 22 yachts for bid, Morley is now focusing on finding the buyers who will fill the VIP lounge at the yacht show, and the Star Deck in Monaco, where a live feed will cater to bidders who cannot attend the auction. “We’ve targeted 50 people who might attend the event, and hopefully bring two or three friends,” he says. “Our plan is to use essentially all the contacts we’ve built up over the years, and network from there. We’ve found that word of mouth is most effective for an event like this.”

The auction’s “Hosted Bidders Program” will provide accommodations and VIP tickets to the yacht show, as well as transportation to and from the auction. There are even a few highly coveted tickets to the Monte Carlo Rolex Tennis final taking place that weekend.

Morley’s team is also spreading the word to clients and contacts in Amsterdam, Doha, Geneva, Monaco, Kiev, London, and Moscow, as well as providing advertising in key markets. The company is also holding a press conference on 26 March in Monaco to publicize the event.

Morley first had the idea of holding the auction at the Antibes show after a US bank contacted him about auctioning a yacht through his brokerage firm. The original boat fell through, but it provided the idea for the larger event. “Why not do as many yachts as possible?” he says. “With economies of scale, I figured we could get many more people to come and buy.”

Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr and his son Arnaud, both well-known auctioneers in the international art world, will run the event. While sellers are hoping for bidding wars, Morley’s not expecting large crowds at the Antibes show or at the Star Deck.

Morley expects about 30 yachts to participate in the final auction. “We’re expecting two 48m yachts and another large one to be finalized today,” he says. So far, the selling list ranges from a 12m Cigarette called Syber to the historic 78m Delphine. The list also includes the 77m Lone Ranger, 55m Turqouise, 45m Costa Magna, 45m CRN Ava as well as many other marques and lengths. Morley anticipated forty yachts would be included in the auction, but says it would not make sense to allow for late entries after the auction’s catalogue is published. “There’s no point in having a yacht that potential buyers will know nothing about,” he says.

Brokers whom Morley contacted were “unanimous” in supporting the auction once they understood the concept of it being an exclusive event. “There’s a delicate balance to be struck here,” he says. “The sellers are obviously very motivated and the buyers know there will be good deals. But we also want to make sure we don’t damage the reputation of any yacht. I think we’ve walked this fine line very well.”

A nine-percent commission of the final sales price is shared between the selling broker and Morley’s firm. Sellers must also pay an entry fee of