Groupe Bénéteau: Announcements and grey areas of the new management

The new CEO of the Bénéteau group, Jérôme de Metz, has made his first nautical comeback at the Cannes Yachting Festival. A few announcements and a controlled communication hide other subjects left open by the French leader in yachting and a feeling of expectation in the company.

A new management profile for the Bénéteau Group

The Bénéteau Group's press conference traditionally opens the Cannes Yachting Festival and the boat show season. The 2019 edition was the opportunity for the new CEO of the French leader in yachting, Jérôme de Metz, appointed in June 2019, to make his first "nautical return". The contrast with his predecessor, Hervé Gastinel, was striking. While the latter, talkative and flamboyant, was very present and tended to personalize his function, Jérôme de Metz was satisfied with a short introduction, leaving the hand for the rest of the presentations to Gianguido Girotti, head of product strategy for boats and his managers. Jérôme de Metz, who is used to corporate consulting, is not a specialist in yachting. "Supporting business projects is my expertise. My goal is to bring the teams together." He would only say the word boat once during his speech, to which he would prefer the word product.

Gianguido Girotti was the real host of the Bénéteau group's press conference

Controlled industrial communication

During the press conference, industrial and strategic announcements are postponed. "For the past 3 months, an evaluation has been underway for a possible reorientation of the strategy. There will be no presentation because it is not completed," says Mr. de Metz. In subsequent interviews, mainly with the business press, the new CEO nevertheless sets the tone, referring to the strategy of his predecessor. "He has launched many initiatives, in the field of digital or rental for example," acknowledges Jérôme de Metz. But this strategy has been costly and its results have been disappointing. We must now enter a phase of rationalization," he explained to Les Echos. He also informed our colleagues that he was planning "other transfers of industrial production", such as the one already carried out by CNB monohulls from Bordeaux to Monfalcone (Italy). For him, 200 references (boat models) and 17 brands, "it's too much!"

Delphia, Bénéteau Boat Club, Band of Boats, outstanding issues

Despite our requests, we were unable to question the new manager on several outstanding issues. In 2018, services to boaters were at the heart of Hervé Gastinel's last press conference. The Band of Boats or Bénéteau Boat Club logos, which were nevertheless present on the slides presenting the 2019 conference, were no longer counted in the 12 brands by Gianguido Girotti. EYB, the second-hand boat sales business, was recently taken over by Band of Boats. What is the future of these service offers for a yacht builder who wants to "rationalize" his operation? Are outsourcing or divestiture planned? Delphia has recently quietly stopped producing sailboats. What is the future of the Polish brand? Jérôme de Metz recently took direct control of the Bénéteau USA subsidiary. What is the meaning of this takeover and its influence on the group's non-European strategy?

Excess, the latest catamaran brand launched by the Bénéteau group

Change of era for Bénéteau Group employees

Behind the brands, the Bénéteau Group employs more than 8,000 people worldwide. He continues to develop recruitment plans for production. However, some employees are concerned about the profile of the manager seeking rationalization. Cost management could jeopardize brands and support functions. "Some factories or brands had become areas of lawlessness, private chapels beyond any control," said the leader in Les Echos. Jérôme de Metz will have to reconcile cost war and factory peace.

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