Sparkman & Stephens changes hands

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Private investors acquire iconic US yacht design company.

US-based naval architecture and brokerage firm, Sparkman & Stephens (S&S) has been acquired by a group of private investors led by Brooke S. Parish and John B. Reuter.

Founded by Olin Stephens and Drake Sparkman in 1929, S&S quickly built a reputation for designing and building cutting-edge yachts using the latest materials and technology. The company’s first J-Class yacht, the 130 ft. Ranger built for Harold 'Mike' Vanderbilt, made America’s Cup history by winning 35 of 37 match races in 1937. Over the next four decades, S&S designed every America’s Cup winner but one.

According to a company statement, the transaction will enable S&S to implement expansion strategies in its design and brokerage businesses, for which it sought growth capital. The firm remains privately held and terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We feel a tremendous sense of pride and responsibility to assume stewardship of a brand and a company whose legacy in American yachting cannot be overstated,” said Parish, who will serve as S&S’s new chairman. “We intend to put significant effort and capital into building both the design and brokerage businesses.”

Parish, an asset management professional in New York and an experienced yachtsman, owns Mermaid, a 1957 Sparkman & Stephens ketch originally built for Austin Goodyear.

Reuter is an entrepreneur and private equity investor who has been involved with yachts for nearly 20 years.

“S&S’s history has been characterised by early adoption of new technology, materials, and engineering techniques for almost a century,” said Reuter, who has been named CEO. “We are enthusiastic about continuing to build on that foundation.”

Jason Black, the company’s COO, based in Greenwich, Connecticut, initiated the transaction and negotiated on behalf of S&S. He will remain responsible for S&S’s brokerage team, business development and operations.

“We intend to maintain the company’s full design and brokerage staff, as well as add new positions over the coming the months – we’re hiring! A new office in Fort Lauderdale is also being discussed,” said Black.

S&S’s chief designer, Brendan Abbott, will continue to lead the design studio in Newport, Rhode Island.

“We delight in our sailing legacy and will always be active in that category,” said Abbott, “but we are putting increasing effort into building our portfolio in the power yacht arena. There are some fantastic projects already on the boards and the future looks bright.”

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