On May 27 the French Kresk cosmetics group, owned by Didier Tabary, announced their four-year commitment to support François Gabart and the purchase from Macif of the Ultim M101, which will carry the colours of the SVR, Lazartigue and Fillmed brands. Tip & Shaft tells us how this alliance came to pass in a very short time.
It was back on June 10, 2020 that Macif caused a significant stir announcing their withdrawal from the Ultim circuit on which the French insurance giants had been one of the main players since 2015. It was a body blow for François Gabart who had hoped to re-sign a contract with his historic sponsor on July 1, fully expecting to start a new cycle with the new boat, baptized M101 which he expected to launch in spring 2021. The winner of the Vendée Globe 2013 thus saw the most important project of his company, MerConcept, shudder to a halt.
“As soon as the bad news broke, we had to organize ourselves to try to find a successor to Macif, who had pledged to finance the construction of M101 until its completion. And of course it was more than ten years since we had needed to do this level of commercial prospecting, but we had nevertheless worked to build a kind of passive network, so the first thing was to rekindle this network,” explains François Gabart, supported here by Thomas Normand, Managing Director of MerConcept. “We were also asked a lot by independent agencies and individuals who offered their services to us to search and we opened a few doors thanks to some of them”.
The beginning of the search was not easy, as Thomas Normand recalls: “Macif’s announcement fell right in the middle of the Covid period, we quickly felt that the priority of the companies which we were talking to was not really focused on sponsorship, certainly at least in the first six months. But we also told ourselves that after each crisis, there were sometimes quite strong restarts, so we did not drop the energy we were putting into it.”
“In terms of appointments, we had five or six relatively serious leads,” says Thomas Normand. François Gabart adds: “We had advanced discussions with people who were extremely interested in the project, but more on co-partnerships, ready for example to contribute one or even two million euros, but not to underwrite the entire project. “On the Macif side, Jean-Bernard Le Boucher, former director of their nautical activity officially left the group on June 30 – reveals there were “two serious applications came about the same time ”, for the purchase of the VPLP design which is nearing completion, both around March time. “The first one was for a longer term, but our priority was to sell the boat before the build was finished, so that it could emerge from the yard resplendent with a new brand, that in itself could clinch a deal. “
The second one came from Didier Tabary, the owner of the Kresk cosmetics group. How did the proposal land on the desk of this 53-year-old Breton entrepreneur from Trébeurden? “The starting point is a story of passion for the sea and sailing. I was also lucky enough to be invited to sail Gitana a few years ago and to steer this boat at over 30 knots; That day, I felt a real emotion and I said to myself that if one day I could become the owner of an Ultim, I would. When I heard that François Gabart was looking for a new owner for his boat, I contacted Macif first, then François.”
the boat would be blue”
These first contacts are so positive that MerConcept decided to take a punt with the branding of M101! “Originally, we had imagined a colourway with a fairly neutral paint that it could possibly accommodate a partner at the last minute as the painting was to begin in the second half of April,” says François Gabart. “ n light of the fact our first discussions were advancing very well, we decided to go for the blue that Didier’s teams like telling ourselves that, at worst, even if everything collapsed, the boat would be blue and that it could always be adapted to another party.”
it was almost turn key immediately”
His signature is one that elevates the Kresk group, who are new to sports sponsorship, directly into the “premier league” of the Ultim, without even passing through intermediate stages. Tabary explains: “If we had not had the opportunity to acquire the Ultim, we would undoubtedly have asked ourselves about an Imoca, but this project interested us because it was almost turn key immediately, whereas for the construction of an Ultim that takes three years from the time you give the green light and the time it is launched. “
On the Macif side they also welcome the deal: “We are happy to have chosen this course of trusting François’ team to finish the build and not to have sold a boat still in build,” says Jean-Bernard Le Boucher, “We weren’t worried that we were not going to sell it we had more uncertainties about the timing. The big advantage of this solution is that the bill of sale will be signed on August 31 at the end of the tests, which is the best possible scenario.”
What is the amount invested by the Kresk group, between the purchase of the foiling trimaran and the operating budget? When told of a sale price between 12 and 15 million euros, Jean-Bernard Le Boucher agrees that “it is in this range”, while Didier Tabary does not wish to give figures.
The entrepreneur prefers to highlight “the twenty or so people who work almost exclusively on this project” in MerConcept, the expected gains in profile for the SVR, Lazartigue and Fillmed brands, and the enthusiasm “generated inside the group by the project and the creation of the Kresk4Oceans Fund”, whose first project will be linked to the fight against plastic pollution.
And this is a key element in the eyes of François Gabart, who could not imagine starting out on a project with no aspect of environmental concerns. “Even before talking to Didier about it, I was working on these topics and thinking about the best way to organize and create a fund, but more looking to 2022 or 2023, this partnership has accelerated the process.”