When Mike Simpson sailed into Taiwan in 1980 to oversee the construction of a sailboat, he had no idea that, more than three decades later, his name would represent an Asian yachting empire that now spans eight countries.
Simpson, who grew up in England, had been cruising the world for nearly a decade as skipper aboard other people’s yachts when he decided to build a cruising sailboat at a Taiwanese yard.
Business builds up
A year later, Simpson began to represent Azimut, and with the two European brands established his current offices at the Aberdeen Marina Tower. Simpson realised early on that his business would best flourish by establishing operations across Asia as a hedge against economic hiccups in individual countries.
In the last decade, Simpson Marine has become the only yacht retailer to establish a genuine pan-Asian presence and recognised name brand. After Malaysia, Simpson launched its business in Singapore in 2000, followed by offices in Phuket in 2003, as well as Pattaya and Taiwan a year later.
But the company has invested most heavily in its growth in the last four years. In 2008, Simpson opened its first office in Shenzhen, China, followed by the second office in Sanya in 2010. Last year, it opened offices in Jakarta, Indonesia and the Philippines. Beyond growing with Beneteau and Azimut, the company also represents world-class brands like Sea Ray, Atlantis, CNB, Lagoon, Nautor’s Swan, and has built a number of custom yachts in Asian shipyards for European and Asian clients.
These days, the boating markets in Southern Asia are healthy, though not exactly vibrant. Simpson notes each market is quite different from each other. “Singapore is the most mature of the three, with better infrastructure,” he says. “Whereas Indonesia is by far the least-developed country, with only one real marina. But even that is limited by draft, and there’s little in support services. Indonesia shows great promise, but will take time to develop. Everything is relationship-based.”
Note: This interview was featured in the June/July 2012 issue of IBI magazine. You can read the full article on IBI Plus.