Azimut CEO, Marco Valle, has been with the shipyard for 23 years. He’s seen a lot of changes in that time, including the rise, fall and rise again of the Middle East marine market. We talk Dubai boat shows, loyal local distributors and pizzerias with the easy-going Italian.

Steve Chalmers

Ciao Marco, you’ve been with Azimut since 1996. Was it your childhood dream to join the shipyard? MV: No, believe it or not, it was never my intention to enter the nautical business.

Really? MV: No, not at all (laughs).

You weren’t born into a seafaring family and spent your weekends sailing, then? MV: I grew up in Trieste on the Adriatic coast, so technically I was by the sea, but my interests were in politics and economics. I ended up at Azimut by chance, after a friend told me about a sales job there. I applied, got the job and moved the 600 kilometres to Torino. The plan was to just stay a few years, but after 23 years, I’m still here!

23 years and counting: Valle joined the Azimut sales department in 1996.

What jobs did you have at the shipyard? MV: I was always in sales. I started as the sales director’s assistant, working on the North European account. Then I started on the US market account and worked my way up from there.

It must have been a cosy shipyard in 1996? MV: Back then, at Christmas time, everybody at Azimut would go altogether to a local pizzeria. Can you imagine the whole shipyard sitting around one table and having pizza together? Now, we are talking about a workforce of 1400. We would need more than one pizzeria now – maybe a whole franchise!

When did you first visit the Middle East? MV: I first came to Dubai in 1996. Dubai was more or less under construction back them.

He then started along the path to promotion, which led him up the ladder to the position of World Sales Manager.

Business or pleasure? MV: It was a business trip with Azimut. I came with this one guy – he’s still with the company, still selling – and I was travelling with him. My first trip was to the USA, then the second brought me here to Dubai, and this was all in my first six months and the reason why I liked Azimut so much. I was young and travelling to places where I had never been, such Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Did you visit the boat show? MV: My first Dubai boat show was back in 1997 at the Marine Club. I remember there were only 15 yachts on display. I came back for 2006 and 2007 when it was bigger, just before the economic crash. Now the show is recovering.

How do you see the Dubai boat show? MV: The Dubai International Boat Show is the gate to the Gulf. It’s a great showroom for us, even if some Azimut Owners don’t physically keep their boats here, in the same way as not everyone who buys a yacht in Cannes keeps it in the South of France.

He held this until September 2016, when he was appointed CEO of Azimut Yachts.

And the Middle East as a whole? MV: What I like about the Middle East is that each country is different and has its own peculiarities when it comes to yachting. Bahrain is different to Oman, the emirates is different to Kuwait. All the clients are different. Also Oman and the smaller emirates are starting to get into leisure yachting, more than fishing.

So the age group is getting lower? MV: We’re still talking large yachts here, so owners average around 45 years old. Back when I first came here, we were dealing with much older Owners. We would often spend many hours discussing business with potential Omani owners; they took their time. It was much more relaxed.

It must be a huge asset having Ahmad Al Ameeri and the Seas and Deserts Group as your representatives? MV: Ahmad’s not just a dealer, he’s a partner. You can count on Seas and Deserts, and Ahmed’s dedicated to the job. He works with passion, he works with the right commitment and he follows up with clients. We were lucky to get him.

“Azimut has invested in the Middle East for more than 30 years. We’re more than satisfied with how the market is going for the shipyard.”

How did you get him? MV: Ahmad was a Sea Ray dealer in Kuwait and we approached him a number of times before he agreed to join us. He was young at the time, very professional – he makes a difference. People trust him. He’s not just words, he’s a man of his word and in this business, negotiations are based on relationships and the relationship has to be supported by professionalism.

Where do you see the Middle East market going in the next few years?  MV: As far as Azimut is concerned, we are very positive. We are doing well here, especially with the larger models – yachts of 75 feet and upwards. Azimut has invested in the Middle East for more than 30 years. We’re more than satisfied with how the market is going for
the shipyard.