International lawyer, with relations on every continent, Alberto Galassi is one of the best known Italians in the world. He sits on many boards, including Manchester City, and I’m not because he’s a football fan, a chromosomal Milan player. Born in 1964, from Modena, married to Antonella Ferrari, daughter of Piero and grandson of Drake, two children. Since 2014 he has been at the top of the Ferretti Group – world leader in motor yachts and pleasure boats with the brands Riva, Wally, Custom Line, Ferretti Yachts, CRN, ITAMA and Pershing – called by the Chinese group Weichai which took over the company, crushed from debts, in 2012.
Good morning lawyer. Where are you talking to me from?
“I am in Modena, with my collaborators, trying to understand how to produce more boats, having already sold all the production of 2022 and part of that of 2023”.
Can you tell us some numbers?
“A fresh figure above all: in September we collected orders for 220 million, which brings us to 900 million in the nine months. It means that we have a wonderful problem to solve”.
How do you do?
“In two ways. First with attention to the production chain: we too have the problems of raw material and transport costs, the shortage of microprocessors. We must be good at planning, willing to spend more and then to raise the price lists, which have already been revised and will still be. Then thanks to the vision: we expanded the production capacity of the yards in time. With 270 thousand square meters we now have 30% more. For example, we have invested tens of millions in those of Ancona, Forlì and La Spezia, where we produce boats of 24-40 meters. We hired 100 people in a year and a half, now we are 1,600 in the world, 2,500 with related companies, and we are still looking for skilled labor and talents ».
Is there a boom on the high seas?
«I have my own vision on this: I believe that the success of pleasure and luxury boating depends on the mix of two factors: first, there is a lot of liquidity in circulation; second, a boat has three requirements: privacy, security and freedom. And the pandemic, with all the restrictions it has introduced into our lives, has made the boat the ideal place to be. In fact it is a private island. And then there was a surprise ».
Tell the news.
«The real surprise of this boom – which is global because 86% of all Italian production is destined abroad, in various 84 countries – is having discovered the value of the emotional impact, which is valid from the clock to the second house. The pandemic has taught us that life is fragile and those who can afford to realize a dream no longer wait, decide they want it immediately, because tomorrow there is no certainty ».
But if at the end of the interview I order a yacht over 24 meters, when do you deliver it to me?
“In 2024. He gets it under 24 a year earlier.”
But how much does your ship cost, an average?
«I can answer that if we divide the group’s turnover by the number of ships produced, we obtain a value that varies over the years between 3 and 3.5 million. Which is the average between 4-500 thousand euros for Riva produced in Sarnico and 90-meter yachts ».
Tell us two or three of your famous clients?
“Charles Leclrec, Elton John, Tom Hanks, David Beckham. They are protagonists in music, football, Formula 1, actors and actresses, great American entrepreneurs and young Asians ».
Let’s talk about a sector for a few. And for the super rich of the world. To what extent is the success of such an exclusive business good news even for ordinary people?
«Because the yachting sector is worth 5.6 billion of the country’s GDP and it is wrong to see it as a whim: we, together with Sanlorenzo and Azimut-Benetti, represent a strategic component of Italian exports. All made in Italy: apart from the engines, the rest is all Italian. When the Monti government, with an ideological choice, chose to tax Italian yachting, it was an attempted massacre. It brought an entire compartment to its knees. Ships are registered movable property, they move. There was the flight to Croatia or the French Riviera and Corsica. And those who flee take away crews, berths, maintenance personnel, fuel. In the face of a ridiculous revenue, it was a huge loss. If you look only at luxury items for a few you do not see the national industry behind it, which is a world pride, and where we are first in the world for detachment ».
Piero Ferrari is a Ferretti shareholder with 12%. While Riva is a sponsor of Ferrari. An intertwining of super brands.
«Engineer Ferrari is much more than a partner. He is responsible for product development. The ultimate decision maker when it comes to style. And the boats of today are not comparable to those of before. Riva, Ferretti Yachts, Custom line, Pershing open towards a trend that everyone is following. I don’t have this talent. Then Riva and Ferrari are the two most famous Italian brands in the world, the ones for which you don’t say I have a boat or I have a car. And I hope that it can also lead to something more, to possible developments. One day we will do it ».
The current state of grace of the Italian economy and the government coincides with a period of sporting successes. Is there a relationship? And does the made in Italy make money?
«There is never a relationship between a government and a sporting result. It is an astral conjunction. And sport always generates a prestigious impact on made in Italy. But we deserve it. For the first time we are playing it in Europe and in the world 11 against 11, on an equal footing with the competitors. Italian entrepreneurs are asking for nothing else. And it is the first time that politics allows it, after too many years of insufficient governments compared to Italian companies. This government is the first with absolute international credibility. Merit of the prime minister who has earned it, and of the political classes that have united as brothers in arms for the common interest ».
Sustainability: can these beautiful ships be built while respecting the environment to come? And become carbon free?
«We were the first in the nautical sector to make a sustainability report and we intend to continue to improve. We have made an agreement with Rolls Royce / MTU on green engines to launch a hybrid engine in 2024. And we are developing hydrogen systems with Weichai. We will also be launching a small electric model. Then we have to be realistic: we all want to become carbon free. But at what cost? In what times?
Your shareholder is Chinese: what is your idea of China’s next moves after the Evergrande crisis? Is there a risk of contagion on the financial markets?
«Weichai bought Ferretti Group when no white knight wanted to join him. It was full of debts, now down to zero: they invested millions of euros and repaid 100% to suppliers, something that has never happened before or after. This gives the idea of what industrial vision these gentlemen have. They are shareholders who require us to invest 30-35 million a year in research and innovation. All time. Even in the year of the covid. It means having an industrial vision that I had never found before. This is why I think we will see the difference between Lehman Brothers and and Evergrande: it will be a turbulence, not a tsunami. Will they save a zombie company? Maybe not. Will they secure banks and homes for their citizens? 100% yes ».