Gold Coast entrepreneurs Bill Barry-Cotter and Steve Searle set to buy luxury boat company from administrators

Well-known God Coast boating entrepreneur Bill Barry-Cotter is set to team up with luxury campervan entrepreneur Steve Searle to buy collapsed luxury boat builder Mustang Marine out of administration.

While administrator Cliff Sanderson from Restructuring Works has refused to reveal the identity of the company’s buyers, sources have confirmed that Barry-Cotter and Searle are teaming up to grab the asset.

Barry-Cotter is best known as the former owner of Riviera, Australia’s luxury boat maker. Barry-Cotter sold Riviera to private equity in 2002 and later set up another luxury boat builder called Maritimo.

Riviera collapsed in May 2009 with debts of about $300 million and remains in receivership after a long sales campaign.

Searle is the owner of Swagman Motorhomes, which sells luxury recreational vehicles. He also owns the Acme Fiberglass supplies business and runs the Acme racing team, which races powerboats and cars.

A spokesman for Maritimo declined to comment but said the company would release a statement later in the week.

Searle was not available for comment prior to publication.

Sanderson says he is pleased to have got the deal away given the carnage in the Australian luxury boat sector, where at least 10 luxury boat companies have collapsed in the last two years.

He says global boat industry estimates suggest sales are down 80% on pre-GFC levels.

“That will hurt any company. These are not luxury items like jewellery. Once you buy it that’s the start – you’ve got to pay to maintain the thing every year. It’s super luxury.”

Sanderson says the key to getting the deal away was a realistic and patient approach by the company’s secured creditor, Standard Bank Asia, which resisted the temptation to bring in receivers.

“It’s probably a good example of when a VA can actually work. It’s allowed a bit more scope in terms of offering the business to buyers and keeping staff and suppliers interested.”

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