The idea of a stereotypical CEO, often stiffer than a starched Armani suit, kicking back on an elegant Italian superyacht seems counterintuitive. That is, unless you’ve met Alberto Galassi, chief executive of the Ferretti Group. Energetic, dapper, and extremely quick-witted, Galassi has been the guiding force that pulled the Italian consortium from bankruptcy and turned it into one of the world’s most successful yacht builders. In three years, Ferretti has launched 34 new models across brands that include Riva, Pershing, Ferretti Yachts, CRN, and Custom Line.
Like Galassi, the new designs are vibrant and forward looking, defined by open spaces and large windows. “Gala,” as his closest friends call him, last year bought a 108-foot Custom Line Navetta 33, Telli, which he kept in Miami for this winter season. I’ve seen Mr. Galassi many times over the years, but aboard Telli at the Ferretti display at the Miami yacht show, he looked more relaxed than I’d ever seen him—even in his suit and tie he looked happy. Part of it was that after four years of hard work, he could slow down a bit and enjoy the fact that his boatbuilding company was now an empire. Mostly, however, he loves being on boats.
“When my father purchased a 1974 Riva speedboat, I was only ten,” he says. “But I remember it like it was yesterday. My mother and father got into a fight about that boat. I recall him explaining how it would make a big difference to our family during the holidays.” The day it was delivered to the family’s waterfront summer home on the Adriatic was “magic.” Galassi still remembers the throaty sound of the engine and the Riva’s sleek profile. His mother was also won over: The fun on board the boat that became the official family history far outweighed the costs. “She understood how it gave pleasure and freedom, rather than rationalizing about finances,” says Galassi. Forty-four years later, the family still owns that first Riva, though Galassi has owned ever-larger yachts over the years.
The Ferretti CEO decided on the Navetta 33, one of last year’s breakthrough designs, with its large exterior social spaces and roomy open-plan interior because, at 54, he wanted a boat for long-distance cruising. “There are so many spaces on the exterior that are private areas, a person or small group can gather by themselves,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve had 40 people aboard dancing in the larger areas.”
When Galassi took over at Ferretti, many people suggested that Custom Line should be retired as a brand. It was a me-too name with not much style. Galassi and designers like Piero Ferrari (of the famed family) and the Zuccon family, however, saw the potential of a mini-megayacht with generous exterior spaces, a simple but contemporary wood interior (which on Telli is nicely offset by white carpets and decor and intense, modern paintings), a large master suite, and upper-deck lounge that overlooks the sea. “I view the yacht as a moving villa that runs at speeds of 16 knots, so you can move up the coast of Florida or over to the Bahamas, or even down into the Caribbean, at a decent speed,” says Galassi. “We also love the foldout terrace in the master suite that becomes our window to the sea.”
Like most owners, Galassi and his family customized the interior with their own choices of woods, leathers, and Italian furniture from Paula Lenta and Dolce & Gabbana. “You can really play as much as you like with the design,” says Galassi.
While Telli will be part of the family for years to come, Galassi still has an ongoing love affair with Riva. As a child, he’d day-dreamed about the legendary Aquarama, the boat of movie stars like Brigitte Bardot or Sean Connery, or royalty like Prince Albert. “I was twelve when I started to talk about owning that boat, but my father told me I was crazy,” he says. “At the time, it was more expensive than a new Rolls-Royce or three Ferraris put together. The Aquarama was the dream boat of my generation but very, very few could afford one.”
Galassi saw his dream come true a decade ago after acquiring the extremely rare Riva, which he had to name Gala. It now sits inside the Riva museum, entering the water for classic regattas or other special events. “She is the queen of the sea that has returned to the water,” says Galassi. “And when it comes to boats, she will always be my dream of dreams.”