Some of the youngest brokers in the industry are delivering top results for clients of all generations. According to the Forbes billionaire list there are approximately 109 billionaires of 40 years or younger and out of 72 million millennials in America, roughly 600,000 are already millionaires. it is gratifying to witness so many young people becoming attracted to the wonderful world of yachting — professionally and personally. The next generation is essential to the health and well-being of the superyacht industry.
I chatted with six millennial brokers, and this is what I discovered.
Sales Broker, Burgess
“I feed off the intense energy involved in selling a yacht,” says 31 -year old Charles Jones, sales broker at Burgess, “There are so many moving parts, it’s like being a conductor in an orchestra.” Jones adds that with so many line items to keep track of and different personalities, there are bound to be challenges, but when it’s all over there is a great sense of satisfaction, and you can finally have a good night’s sleep.
Jones is enjoying a symphonic success. According to Burgess in his short four-year tenure, he is responsible for 36M in yacht transactions. At the beginning of the pandemic, he completed a sale of 10M in which he listed the boat, and sold it without the seller, buyer, or buyer’s broker ever seeing the boat in person.
Jones’s formative years and family background were no doubt helpful in launching his yacht broker career. “Boats are in my blood,” he says. “My father is in the shipping business as are my brothers, cousins and many other family members.” Born in Montreal, Jones spent his youth boating with his family in the Great Lakes. Augmenting his educational and cultural experience, his family lived for several years in both Singapore and Hong Kong before resettling in Boston, After college, he interned for a shipping company in Paris that owned a yacht brokerage, where he worked as assistant to five different brokers. “I did everything the brokers did not want to do. I ran around Europe plugging all sorts of holes and in the process, I learned a lot about the business and about dealing with people.”
Now based in Miami, and working with Burgess, he finds that most of his new business is derived from referrals, boat shows and events. He feels that nothing beats meeting people in person, whether it is on the occasion of a Burgess corporate or co-marketing experience or at the Grand Prix. Jones’s fiancée is in real estate, and they enjoy a lot of synergy in their respective jobs. “ We speak the same language” he says.
“Naturally, one of the most fruitful ways forward in this business is to maintain relationships with people with whom I have done business in the past.” Referrals from charter clients is also very effective. Eventually they want to own the asset. “Do you want to rent a car, or own it?” he asks, He feels the pride of ownership is the tipping point.
Social media such as Instagram is helpful to a degree. “Social media is great at putting out a message, clients will forward me a boat they saw on Instagram and ask, ‘what’s this boat’? is it for sale?” “I am finding that yacht owners’ adult children are getting involved in helping their parents search for and buy a yacht,” says Jones.
Jones remarks that there is a lot of teamwork at Burgess. “Everyone is committed and engaged with the company. We also play nicely with other brokerage firms,” he adds, “In the end we all want the same thing, we want clients to have a happy transaction. We look for the best boat for our clients, we are not in it for the quick sale, we are in it for the long haul.”
Charter Broker, Burgess
“I always knew I wanted to work in the luxury market, says 29-year old Catherine Miller. “In college I imagined working in PR for some client like a world-renowned 5-star hotel brand, but what I am doing now with Burgess is so much more interesting!”
Miller grew up in a small town in upstate New York in the Finger Lake region. She went boating there and on the St. Lawrence Seaway between NY and Canada. My parents had a 20ft Cobalt and we had Boston Whalers and small fishing boats, but I knew nothing about the superyacht world. After college, I worked at a few PR agencies and marketing firms. Then I came across Burgess and the company had all the elements I was looking for in a profession. Working for Burgess became my end goal, so I kept after them.
Finally, a position opened up and I joined Burgess as the USA Marketing Executive. After a year and a half in this role, I moved to the charter department, working with 3 brokers in the very busy New York Office, and then became a charter broker myself.
Miller educates herself by going to charter shows to see what is on the market and to check out the boats and their crew. Recently she just came back from the Greek charter show in Nafplion where she saw 50-60 charter boats. We have a tight knit industry and charter brokers benefit from working together.
Miller likes being able to develop a personal relationship with clients. She says If they have a good experience, they’ll stick with you. If not, they’ll move on. “When things don’t go as planned, it is good to be with a reputable broker to take care of you, that is where Burgess shines— we take care of our clients, says Miller.
Miller says Millennial charter clients are gathering steam these days. The trend is to charter a yacht for celebrations—a honeymoon, a pre-wedding, a birthday, an anniversary, or just a splurge with friends. People get excited about something, and they say, let’s get a yacht. I think there is an education process that has to take place. What you see on social media looks like millions of dollars, and you think its unattainable when I break it down for them, they can see it is actually possible. if you have 100k, I say, here is the cost break down split it 5 ways…for instance.”
A good charter broker can always sell you on a dream vacation.
Sales Broker, Northrop & Johnson
With more than 15 years of experience in the yachting industry, and in her current role as Yacht Broker with Northrop & Johnson, 38-year old Kristen Klein has succeeded in closing more than $150 million in transactions with Northrop & Johnson over the past seven years.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian growing up,” says Klein with a laugh. “But I don’t have much of a stomach for blood so that didn’t go far.” Hailing from Wisconsin, Klein spent most of her formative years in Clearwater, Florida. It was not until she and her family went on a vacation to St Maarten that she had any inkling about the superyacht world. “We weren’t really familiar with the island, and the trip came about because my father had some frequent flyer miles he had to burn up.” Seeing a plethora of large yachts there, was the wow moment for her. She caught wind of the concept of being yacht crew on those yachts. Klein always wanted to travel the world after college but did not have the necessary financial resources, so she went to Fort Lauderdale after graduating from the University of Florida, got her STCW license and she got a job right after she finished the fire safety part of her course.
For six years she crewed as a stewardess aboard a variety of superyachts; from a 185ft Benetti, to a 175ft Feadship as well as on a 154ft Admiral Marine and several Westports. She made a promise to herself she would have a professional non-crew career by the time she was 30. At 28-years old, she went ashore in Fort Lauderdale. The last yacht she crewed on full time was managed by N & J and she met N & J charter broker Amy Wachmann as well as Kevin Merrigan, Chairman of N & J. She found out they were looking for a receptionist “Talk about working your way up from the bottom,” says Klein. She had the opportunity to be a sales assistant to some of the brokers and liked the work.
Soon she moved up to be personal assistant to Kevin Merrigan. “I learned so much from him—his guidance has been instrumental to my success—and I determined I could also be a sales broker.” She spent 2 years obtaining her MBA from the University of Florida while working full time as Kevin’s assistant. “I felt more confident after getting my business degree. I felt so much of what I learned was applicable to our industry. It really taught me to speak and understand the same business language as a lot of my clients,” she says.
Her first sale in 2015 was a 95ft Admiral Marine/Westport yacht called Serenity II. Her confidence grew as did her sales record. “I do my due diligence,” she says, “I keep abreast of what is going on in the market, I attend boat shows, I know what is available. I use all my company’s intelligence systems to do my job and I believe in integrity above all when dealing with my clients.”
That chance family trip to St Maarten many years ago must have made a big impression not only on Kristen but also on her twin sister, Jessica Engelmann, who also worked on yachts and ended up at N & J— only she is a charter broker. I love working with my sister. Northrop and Johnson is a family, and I am grateful.
There was a time that there were precious few female sales brokers, that ceiling has been broken and more and more young women are joining the yacht brokerage sales force. Would you buy a yacht from this woman? Yes indeed!
Sales Broker, Northrop & Johnson
Twenty Nine year old Elizabeth (Liz) Swain grew up in landlocked Harvard, Massachusetts dreaming of being a marine biologist. At the University of Rhode Island, she was on the Rowing Team, became president of the sailing club and studied Marine Affairs (aka human use of the marine environment). That was really her first taste of actually being on the water. Post college, she raced 12-meters in Newport and crewed for offshore deliveries. She then moved to Cordova, Alaska where she worked at the Prince William Sound Science Center. There she enjoyed salmon fishing, hiking, backcountry skiing, ice-skating and craft beer brewing with wild ingredients.
One thing led to another, and she found herself living aboard a 38-foot sailboat running a mobile rigging and electrical business with her then partner who was an experienced rigger. The two ran the business together servicing cruising boats. Armed with boat expertise, business acumen and an entrepreneurial spirit, the two cruised with their mobile business from Florida to the Bahamas, and as far south in the Caribbean as Barbados. Eventually they made their way north back up to Newport, RI. Shortly thereafter, Swain left life aboard, sold her share in the business and begin a new career path.
“After college, and when I returned to Newport for the rigging business, I became immersed in the yachting life in Newport. Naturally, I met a lot of people in the marine industry.” she says. “On Christmas Eve, just one day after I sold my half of the rigging business, I got a message from the owner of Sparkman & Stephens brokerage— who I knew from racing sailboats after college— asking me if I would consider working for his company as a sales broker. I had never considered working as a broker before then, but the idea made a lot of sense! I loved boats and all the corresponding details, especially on the design and mechanical side. I loved people and had a business and self-driven entrepreneurial mindset, which I quickly found out is essential as a broker.”
After working at S&S, Swain joined Northrop & Johnson in their Newport office, and she quickly moved from assistant broker to sales broker. “Hank Halsted, Senior Sales Broker at N&J, who brought me onto the team, has been a great mentor and now partner.” says Swain. “Being able to learn from all of the legendary sales brokers here in the Newport N&J office has been priceless. Alongside the wealth of knowledge, resources and support through our Fort Lauderdale office and the international connections of our offices around the world, N&J has been a great company to grow with.”
She went through a rapid learning curve from dealing in small sailboats to larger ones and then to power boats and large yachts, immersing herself in learning as much as she could about them including superyacht builders and yacht designers.
Swain mentions that N&J has valuable online tools to canvas a wide range of qualified potential yacht buyers. While she admits that word of mouth is still the best way to meet clients, she also receives a lot of inquiries from our online tools. “It’s kind of like online dating… you converse with potential clients, determine if you are both a good fit for one another, then meet in real life,” she says with a laugh. “Then it is your job to keep the relationship going by matching the client up with the right boat and then making the effort to go with him/her to see boats together and get a deal done.”
Swain continues, “I have been asked why I became a sales broker versus a charter broker, since charter is traditionally the yacht brokerage path for women. “Quite frankly I am more interested in yacht performance, yacht technology and quality than napkins, table settings, and wine pairings.” Still, she is quick to add she works well with charter brokers and enjoys sharing referrals to get clients on charters as well.
Swain is getting married in the fall and her fiancé is a composite design engineer in the marine industry. The two enjoy sailing and skiing together. The venue for her wedding is her colleague Hank Halsted’s property in Exeter, RI. It’s all in the family. While Swain never did become a marine biologist, she did discover an awesome path that she loves in the marine world.
Yacht Sales & Charter, Y.CO
“I am 29 years old and feel very fortunate to have found a job that doesn’t feel like ‘work.’ I love working with Y.CO and am excited to have the opportunity mature and grow in the global yachting industry. Although I have called NYC home for the last 9 years, I have spent a lot of time out of the city traveling and living around the world.”
Sabrina Stedman was not always a city girl. “I was raised in Warren, Vermont—with population of merely 1500—in a tight knit community. I enjoyed skiing, hiking and being outdoors.” From an early age she was exposed to the yachting industry through her mother’s work and was a frequent traveler to global yacht shows shipyards, and destination ports.
Being exposed to international travel inspired her to leave the ‘Green Mountain State’ for ‘the City of Lights’ when she was 17. She attended the American University of Paris and graduated with a BA degree in Global Communications and International Business. “My first job in the superyacht industry was interning at Elena Ambrosiadou’s family office in Monaco. Ms. Ambrosiadou owns the iconic 289ft/88m sailing yacht, the Maltese Falcon,” says Stedman. Daily, after work, she enjoyed perusing the docks and checking out the superyachts. She immersed herself in the Monaco life, attending events where she met international yacht owners, captains, crew, and marine industry people.
After college Stedman accepted a position as an assistant charter broker at Edmiston’s New York office. “ I was still young and wanted to expand my horizons, so I subsequently went to work for a full service travel and lifestyle agency learning every aspect of luxury travel and growing my knowledge of ‘best of the best’ in each location.”
“My interest in bespoke travel experiences enhanced my appreciation for high-end design. I explored a new work opportunity with the company Neal Feay, a creative aluminum fabricator based in California. I opened a showroom for them in New York, focused on business development and found a lot of success working with superyacht designers.”
Throughout Stedman’s work career, she kept finding a way to cycle back to the yachting world. “When I discovered that Y.CO wanted to establish a presence in New York, I knew it would be the perfect fit for me. Thankfully they also thought I would be a good fit for their company and their ethos. By combining my love for yachts, design, and travel— I feel I can share my collective expertise with others.” says Stedman.
Stedman’s global network reaches far and wide. A lot of my clients are entrepreneurs. I am focused on bringing a fresh clientele to the yachting industry. I meet a lot of my clients through non industry events. I find it easy to connect with people when we have common interests and shared experiences such as during Art Basil, Ondalinda, and Burning Man.
“Relationship-building is one of my strengths,” says Stedman, “I am very open- minded and I think people find me trustworthy.” She feels one cannot qualify a potential sales or charter client by age, gender or background. “Anyone who has an adventurous spirit, old or young, is someone who is bound to love what yachting has to offer. It is truly the most amazing way to travel with family and friends— to explore new places, commune with nature, enjoy watersports, eat the best food ever, and at the same time be assured of total privacy and security.”
Stedman enjoys sharing her passion for yachting and hopes to convert and educate the uninitiated about the yachting experience. “There is a first time for everything but after your first charter, it won’t be your last time. ” says Stedman.
Sales Broker, Y.CO
“I guess you could say I was raised with saltwater in my mouth,” says Max Bulley, sales broker at the Monaco office of Y.CO. “I feel as if I have always been connected to the sea.” Born in 1985 in London to parents who were Swiss and British, Bulley grew up in the south of France from the age of five. From his teens, he became a professional racing sailor—competing in everything from the Olympic circuit to Swan regattas, Wally racing, superyacht cups, classic regattas and Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. He came to the industry by his passion for sailing.
He obtained his Yacht Masters license which enabled him to helm larger boats and went on to work for a Royal family, captaining the various powerboats— including a WallyPower and a Riva —that shadowed their 80-meter yacht. Bulley’s ever-present adventuresome spirit allowed him to switch gears and move to Montenegro where he was involved in sales for Porto Montenegro’s marina and apartments. “As a rep for Porto Montenegro, I attended all the major yacht shows and events with a ‘neutral business card’ so to speak, which made it easy to meet builders, captains, brokers, and establish an extensive network in the industry early on,” he says. “I also feel fortunate to have worked with the late Peter Munk (founder of Porto Montenegro), and his partners. I learned a lot from them,” says Bulley. In fact, Bulley, whose father is a film maker, counts himself lucky to have grown up around family friends such as the legendary George Nicholson who formed Camper & Nicholsons International in the early 1960s and Nick Sturge of Sturge Insurance.
Bulley clearly comes to the role of a superyacht broker naturally. His persona is a perfect fit with his profession. Married to a Frenchwoman, who is in the luxury fashion industry, and with two children under the age of 2, his peripatetic days are over, at least for a while. He is happily rooted in the south of France and loves his job. “There is a genuine entrepreneurial and upstart energy at Y.CO and I really enjoy working with my team,” he says.
While he deals with a wide range of clients, he particularly likes the disrupter mindset of yacht owners who want to innovate and push technology. He is currently managing a couple of new build projects which he cannot talk too much about but is happy to report that both are pioneering in the eco-conscious realm of building greener. Bulley may be a Millennial, but he caters to a spectrum of clients. “I used to have to hunt for clients; it is gratifying that now many of them come to me on a referral basis.” Bulley’s biggest challenge now is getting home from a Wing foil session on Friday evening, in time to help with the new-born and the 1 ½ year old.