Chinese tycoons team up, sell James Bond's favorite yachts to super-rich pals
Internet tycoon Charles Zhang to sell Sunseeker vessels to his fellow super-rich as Rolls-Royces and Bentleys become old hat
China's super-rich who have made big fortunes over the past few decades in business are now keen to acquire ultra luxurious assets after already buying so-called "hard luxury" goods like Hermes bags and Patek Philippe watches.
Some mainland businesspeople are now positioning themselves to profit from the aspirations of "new money" in the world's No 2 economy.
Charles Zhang, the founder and chairman of Sohu.com one of the mainland's top three internet portals, recently made a deal with British luxury-yacht maker Sunseeker for two reasons: his love of boats and to make it easy for his rich Chinese friends to buy their first yacht.
Zhang, one of the mainland's richest men, recently spent tens of million of US dollars to buy the sales and distribution rights in China of Sunseeker, whose yachts can be seen in James Bond movies, according to two people familiar with the matter. Zhang's office declined to make a comment about the personal investment.
According to a statement on Sunseeker's website, Zhang became a "shareholder of strategic significance" in July last year. The sources noted that Zhang's move to control all official distribution channels of Sunseeker yachts in China deepened his ties with the company.
Sunseeker, founded in 1968, is the largest yacht maker in Britain. It produces 300 vessels per year. Its yachts are priced between £400,000 (HK$4.8 million) and £21 million. The number of high-net-worth individuals, who are classified as those who have at least US$1 million in investable assets, on the mainland grew 14.3 per cent last year to 643,000, more than five times the number in Hong Kong, according to a recent report by Royal Bank of Canada.
Zhang's deal with Sunseeker came around the same time that Dalian Wanda, a Chinese property developer run by one of the mainland's richest men, Wang Jianlin, agreed to pay nearly HK$4 billion for 91.8 per cent of Sunseeker. The management of Sunseeker holds the remaining shares.
The deal was officially announced last week and Sunseeker has already sent letters to its clients worldwide to inform them of the new shareholding structure. Sunseeker told its clients the investment by Dalian Wanda would not change the level of its service or quality of its yachts, according to one of the sources, a Sunseeker yacht owner.
"In the future, Wang Jianlin will make the yachts and Charles Zhang will sell them around China," said the source. "This market has huge potential because the super-rich always want to try something new. Luxury cars like Rolls-Royces and Bentleys don't feel new to them any more."
According to a luxury market report published by Fung Business Intelligence Centre in April, after chasing designer products such as Louis Vuitton handbags and Hermes belts, mainland luxury product consumers are becoming more discerning with a rising level of sophistication.
"Many of them prefer low-key but unique luxury products to reflect their individual tastes," said the report.
Indeed, Zhang's personal taste for luxury largely reflects that of his fellow super-rich. In an interview with a boating magazine in 2011, Zhang, who bought his first Sunseeker yacht just a few years ago, said: "I want to fish, make breakfast or just listen to some music on my yacht. That is the kind of quality of life I chase every second of my life."