I’ve been in this business long enough to know there’s no such thing as a boatbuilder immune to financial difficulty, but this does come as a surprise. As recently as last month Oyster proudly announced they have in hand £80 million in orders. They just showed off the new Oyster 745 (see photo up top) at Boot Dusseldorf, where it was the largest boat on display. One of these big boys was also parked just across the pontoon from my boat at the Annapolis show last fall and got a Boat of the Year nod from Cruising World for Best Luxury Cruiser. Oyster was also launching itself well and truly into the superyacht market and had two 118-foot boats in build. But as of yesterday all that ground to a halt as news slipped out that Oyster in fact has no cash on hand, can’t afford to pay anyone anything, and so has ceased operations as of today.
Ouch! The immediate reason for the lack of funds is not crystal clear, but seems clear enough for jazz, as an old musician friend of mine was fond of saying. Yachting Monthly, which broke the story online yesterday, reported that Oyster’s owner, HTP Investments, a Dutch firm, was rumored to be pulling the plug. CEO David Tydeman today, however, would only confirm “that the Company has been unable to secure financial support to enable it to continue at this time.”
He’s not kidding about this. Take a look at the Oyster website, or at any link to content once posted there, and you will find a void.
One can’t help but wonder if Oyster’s financial crisis is at all related to the awful Polina Star III keel failure of 2015, wherein the keel and a portion of the hull laminate fell off a new Oyster 825. I am sure addressing this problem, on Polina Star and on the other 825s (one of which belonged to the two owners of HTP Investments) must have cost a lot of money.
Polina Star’s keel after it was recovered
The bottom of the hull showing where the laminate supporting the keel stub tore away
It is a sad state of affairs. Oyster as it was built up by its founder, Richard Matthews, was (is) a fantastic brand with rabidly loyal owners. Matthews sold out to Balmoral Capital, a private equity firm, for £70 million in 2008 (a nicely timed transaction, it seems), and Balmoral in turn sold the builder to HTP for £15 million just four years later. A dramatic illustration of how quickly fortunes can change in this industry.
I’ve said this many times: you should never go into boatbuilding, or anything having to do with boats really, if your primary goal is just to make money. You need to do it for love.
Here’s hoping some brave soul with a big heart and a fat wallet will come to the rescue and breathe new life into this business. It is certainly worth saving.
[Lead photo by Jon Whittle]