DEN BOSCH – Moonen Yachts marks its 40th anniversary in 2021, two years after surviving a brief bankruptcy. Ownership shifted from a Mexican steel baron – neck-deep in legal doo-doo – to an Australian business couple with a passion for yachts and yachting.
Matthew and Louise Baxter have steered companies in Europe, the US and Australia through AM Group which they sold last November. That gave them time and space to put a heartbeat back into the 40-year-old Dutch superyacht builder. It named new management, raised output and spirits by embracing speculation-building to accelerate deliveries. Today, Moonen Yachts has bounced back and is again building and selling semi-custom 30-50m yachts.
The bankruptcy did not result from poor designs (in 2018, Moonen’s 36.3m Brigadoon took top honors at the World Super Yacht Awards), but from so-so management. “The Baxters understand you must optimize a build process before you can sell anything,” says Moonen Managing Director Marianne Hendriks. The key to that was spec-building, i.e., crafting a superyacht without a buyer in sight. So if one does ring the bell, a yacht can be delivered quickly.
Hendriks calls herself a “people person. I motivate people. Inside the company and outside. Customers who want to buy a yacht have a wish. By listening well, I can make their dream come true.”
She joined three years ago, after 19 years as marketing manager of Alewijnse, a Dutch integrator of automation and electrical systems. The Baxters named her general manager handling sales. Nicky van Zon, a 13-year Moonen veteran, became technical director, overseeing operations.
Because of the Baxters, says Hendricks, “the world sees us selling yachts again.” She adds that’s more complicated than it sounds “since it takes at least a year to develop a yacht. And building one, takes two years.”
Clear evidence of Moonen’s return is that brokers again find the yard in the heart of the Netherlands. “That’s because of the solid foundation the Baxters have laid,” says Van Zon. “Brokers know the yacht they sell will be finished.”
He is scouting subcontractors to boost output. He and Hendriks see blue skies but, much like a cobbler sticking to his last, they tread cautiously. For instance, they will soon build a 42m yacht, at a time when expedition yachts go viral.
Hendricks stresses Moonen Yachts will not fall in the pricey explorer trap but do what it does best: make elegant, timeless cruisers. It focuses on on-board experience, optimized aft decks with access to the water and smart storage of water toys.
That must be the right approach because Moonen Yachts oozes confidence again. In June, it starts on a Moonen-110, a collaboration with exterior designer René van der Velden and Diana Yacht Design’s naval architects. The model is Moonen’s newest design concept, characterized by a sleek, low-slung profile, lots of outdoor spaces and panoramic views.
In December, Moonen will deliver a 36m yacht for a repeat US client, the third in its Martinique series. The keel of the 4th Martinique was laid last November. And Number 2 was shipped to the Emirates in February.