Company boss quits over £1m compensation for leaky yacht

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Discovery yacht Group
Sean Langdon stepped down from Discovery yacht Group

A YACHT company has been landed with a compensation bill of more than £1m after one of its new boats was found to have a catalogue of failings

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Discovery Yacht Group employs more than 100 employees at its production base in Marchwood and a brokerage at Lymington, and in the wake of the ruling by a judge at the High Court it was announced that managing director Sean Langdon was standing down.

Just over two years ago he had led a management buyout but he has now been replaced by group sales director John Burnie.

The shake-up follows Discovery filing notice of its intention to appoint insolvency experts earlier this month to protect itself pending the outcome of a case brought by Andrew France over the 58ft yacht Elusive he bought new for £1.5m in 2017 to cruise the world with his wife Maria.

The court heard former paratrooper Mr France wanted Elusive to be fit for extended periods at sea but their plans had to be abandoned when faults began to emerge on its maiden voyage.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Teare said: “The yacht appears to have been delivered hurriedly and before it was ready to be delivered. It was delivered without an adequate sea trial or commissioning.”

He added: “On the first day of her maiden voyage the mast collar began to leak, and on 15th January 2017 the forward cabin was flooded with water because of an unfinished cable penetration in the watertight bulkhead.”

Repairs were carried out but they were not successful, and further problem were encountered, leaving Mr France with no confidence in the boat.

The judge said “[Mr France] did not have the enjoyment and pleasure which he had justifiably expected. A very large number of days was spent waiting in marinas for repairs to be done. I consider that to describe the use he had of the yacht as a benefit would be an abuse of language.”

The yacht was eventually shipped back across the Atlantic to England where it was inspected by an expert.

“He has considered each of the many defects which were outstanding,” continued the judge. “He described the yacht as a large luxury sailing yacht with numerous significant defects outstanding 2.5 years after delivery. He described the work required to regain the standard contracted at delivery as extensive and the cost very high.”

The judge ruled that Discovery Yacht Sales Ltd should pay £911,113 in compensation to the Frances, given the yacht’s current actual value of £610,000 with repairs, and that Discovery Yachts Group should pay £262,957 plus any further repairs.

In a statement issued on Friday, in which there was no mention of the court ruling, new MD Mr Burnie said: “A variety of matters affecting the Discovery Yachts Group have now been progressed.

“Primarily action has been taken to secure the future of the overall business and to place it in a strong position to facilitate further investment and growth.

“Our shipyard is a specialist operation building world-class, luxury blue-water yachts. Following a restructuring of the business, the group has now been refinanced enabling it to continue and participate in that unique yacht building tradition with confidence.”

“Sean Langdon will now concentrate his efforts on developing other projects and consultancy work. John Burnie, previously group sales director, has been appointed managing director of the new group with immediate effect.

“Normal day-to-day operations in the business, particularly at the shipyard, are otherwise completely unaffected – the restructured company will continue to fulfil all customer orders in the usual manner.

“The new group is focused and now looking to the future – notably towards
BOOT/2020 the Düsseldorf Boat Show in January where a new yacht will be exhibited. Further statements will be issued appropriately and in due course.”

Attempts by the A&T to contact the company this week brought no response.

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