Mr. Verstraete said eight shares would be sold for $2 million each in each of the company’s 40-meter, or 132 foot, yachts, covering five weeks of use per year. Charters to others will be offered during any unused weeks, with the owners receiving the revenue.
So far, YachtPlus has sold the 32 fractions for the first four boats, he said. Mr. Verstraete said that, generally, the buyers were what he calls the “emancipated wealthy” — hedge fund managers and private equity fund managers who can take more time away from the office. He said most were Europeans, with a sprinkling of Americans.
Two of the boats, which are being built in the Cantieri Navali Rodriquez shipyard in La Spezia, Italy, are expected to be ready next summer, with another one finished every four months after that.
Mr. Verstraete said the fleet of 10 yachts would be parked in the Caribbean in the winter and the Mediterranean in the summer. All crew members will be YachtPlus employees, which means, Mr. Verstraete said, that owners and their guests will be ensured excellent service.
“My vision is to make this the contemporary yachting brand,” he said. “The similarity is with a fashion label that everyone wants.” The boats are being designed by Norman Foster, the renowned architect whose firm, Foster + Partners of London, is responsible for such projects as the new Beijing airport and 30 Saint Mary Axe, the iconic London building commonly called the Gherkin.
With the capacity to sleep 18, the yachts will have floor-to-ceiling windows on the main and upper decks, as well as in the owner’s suite, and a glass spiral staircase linking all four decks. “The philosophy is that this won’t be just another white boat,” Mr. Verstraete said.
The founders and initial shareholders in YachtPlus, which was organized in 2005, include Ruggero Magnoni, vice chairman of the American investment bank Lehman Brothers, and Fabio Cane, head of the private equity operations of ?? Banca Intesa in Italy. Mr. Verstraete himself was previously associated with Marquis Jet, a NetJet competitor.
Another company, Yacht Share, operates out of Miami with an arrangement that is more like a traditional timeshare. As explained on theyachtshare.com, a $40,000 membership fee, in addition to monthly payments, provides 28 days a year on a captained luxury yacht that sleeps six — but does not provide an equity stake in the boat, as the fractional ownership does. Participants do, however, receive privileges at the Sunset Harbour Yacht Club in the South Beach area of Miami as well as at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla.
“Typically a yacht is used only three to four weeks of the year by its owner,” said Robert Kyle, chief executive of Yacht Share. “It sits the rest of the time in a marina, becoming part of the local skyline.”
While fractional ownership can be a rewarding experience, experts warn that consumers must first do their homework.
“Are there deep pockets behind it? Do they have experience?” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a research firm in New York. “You need to make sure there are operators who really understand the economics of what they are doing and who really know how to deliver on the services they promise.”
Mr. Pedraza said he expected fractional ownership to spread. “We’re seeing it in recreational vehicles,” he said. “Soon you’ll also see it in helicopters. Just about every luxury asset you can think of can and will be fractionalized.”