Mark Upton has a solution for that annoying moment you realise you’ve left your wife’s $1.5 million birthday present in your super yacht
When I meet Mark Upton, founder of luxury yacht concierge service MGMT, on a Friday afternoon in the oddly deserted lounge of the Capital Club, he looks bizarrely relaxed.
I say ‘bizarrely’ for a good reason: Upton’s job consists of making sure his wealthy, seafaring clients’ every need or whim is catered for once they’re moored in London, whether that’s an impromptu visit to Churchill’s War Rooms when they’re closed on a Sunday afternoon, or the finest jewellery the capital has to offer. Shouldn’t he look a little more ragged?
It soon becomes obvious, though, that maintaining an unflappable exterior — and, indeed, interior — is crucial to Upton’s job, as he describes what sounds, frankly, like an insanely last-minute working schedule: ‘We get some pretty odd requests,’ he says, ‘but we like to think there is nothing we can’t do for our clients.’
These requests peaked during the Olympics, when Upton’s small team found themselves fielding enquiries from super yacht owners moored in London to watch the Games. Some requests were more achievable than others: ‘One client wanted to visit Churchill’s War Rooms on a Sunday afternoon, when they were closed. But we made a few phone calls and got him in.’
Another client, also in London for the Olympics, had planned a romantic evening with his wife in a West End restaurant, but realised when there that he had left the $1.5 million diamond necklace that he wished to present her with on board their yacht. Upton deployed someone on motorbike to collect it from the boat, moored in the East end, and within half an hour it was back in the hands of the forgetful billionaire.
A super yacht in Canary Wharf during the Olympics
‘Ultimately’, says Upton, ‘I think the most enjoyable part of running MGMT is hearing our members say “You can’t really do that, can you?”’
How did it all get started, I ask? Upton’s boating pedigree is impeccable. After studying Marketing and Management, he went straight into working on yachts, first as a deck hand, then moving into teaching and navigation. He gained his Class IV Master’s ticket in 2001, enabling him to take up First Officer and Captain positions on super yachts on both sides of the Atlantic.
He’d always wanted to run his own business though, and in 2009 set up MGMT, initially as an advisory service, whose main purpose was to guide first time buyers through the fraught process of buying their first yacht. ‘It was really set up for people who wanted to buy a yacht, but who knew nothing about them,’ he says.
Their allure is simple to explain, according to Upton: Even in the UHNW world, where it is increasingly difficult to impress with material possessions, yachts are the absolute and final stamp of financial success — the ‘ultimate luxury’.
The concierge offering only began last year, and spawned out of the original advisory service during the Olympics, but already, as word passes among the super yacht owning community, MGMT faces a challenging year ahead if it is to maintain its ability to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Expansion — both in the client base and the client-facing team — is inevitable, says Upton, but he is emphatic that the company will not pursue growth for the sake of growth. Providing clients with exactly what they want, and remaining unfazed and calm while doing so, remains the focus: ‘We consider ourselves to have failed if a client has to remind us about something we’re expected to do for them.’
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