As Riviera stages the world premiere of its 645 SUV at the 32nd Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, the Australian builder’s longest-serving international dealer won’t be present. Lee Marine was founded in Phuket in 1997 and has been representing Riviera in Thailand since 1998, but travel restrictions mean founder Josh Lee and colleagues can’t be at Sanctuary Cove this year.
However, that doesn’t mean Lee and his team aren’t keeping busy. As well as Riviera, which produces five ranges of fibreglass motor yachts from 39-72ft, Lee Marine also works closely with Cantiere delle Marche (CdM) as a ‘preferred partner’ of the Italian builder of steel motor yachts from 80-150ft. The Phuket-based dealer is also a broker for a huge range of yachts, new and pre-owned.
Furthermore, since 2018, the company has also owned the licence for Northrop & Johnson in Asia, making it a regional representative of one of the world’s leading brokerage houses.
Representing a global firm like N&J forced Lee Marine to advance its digital capabilities, while Covid deepened that knowledge. Lee is now very used to communicating and selling remotely with clients to offset the absence of local boat shows and the inability to travel to others, including in his native Australia.
“Now, we’re mostly marketing and selling yachts digitally, selling yachts ‘sight unseen’. We’ve sold two 40m superyachts this way. It’s amazing, really,” Lee says from his company headquarters in Ao Po Grand Marina, where staff include General Manager Martin Holmes, Lee’s first employee in 1997.
“Since Covid, boating has become the hot new thing in Asia and we’re sitting right in the middle of arguably the best playground in the region.”
The Australian has seen a lot of changes in the industry since he was a charter skipper in the Whitsunday Islands before eventually settling in Thailand by way of Hong Kong, where he worked as a securities trader.
However, the combination of developing the Northrop & Johnson business in the region and adapting to selling yachts in the ‘new normal’ has both challenged and energised Lee Marine’s Managing Director in recent years.
“The yachting industry continues to grow digitally, even more rapidly recently due to the pandemic. Brokers release more information online with yacht specifications, details and images that may have previously been confidential. However, more readily accessible facts ultimately benefit the end-user, the client,” Lee says.
“Although Asia has antiquated rules for yacht classifications and various procedures, the modern brokerage is digitally savvy, with the capability of selling products remotely. Lee Marine is now very data-driven and properly prepared, which has been proven by our sales and achievements.”
Despite sales of over 700 yachts and over two decades of successful business, Lee has kept his company focused on Thailand and not expanded across the region, in keeping with the company tagline, ‘We aim to be better, not bigger’.
“Through experience, we recognise big is not necessarily best. We have slowed down to concentrate more on the clients we have, as opposed to seeing how many we can get.”
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