Consummate professional who has worked for some of the best yachting companies in the world – among them marinas Porto Montenegro and OneOcean PortVell; as well as Benetti, Ocean Independence and Solidmark
One of the top yachting experts in the region is Lebanese-born, has a Croatian mother and an Italian father, and grew up in Qatar and Zagreb. As cosmopolitan as you can imagine, he loves sea, sailing and yachts more than anything else. Nizar Tagi is an expert in all things yachting: currently working his magic in Porto Montenegro, he is a founding member of the Adriatic Yachting Association, a body aiming to educate young generations and gather in one place all the expertise and know-how now scattered and not easily accessible. Mr. Tagi has put his know-how to a noble use of development and preservation of the Adriatic. Interested in boast since childhood, he says the sea is in his earliest memories: ‘I was born seaside and have spent all my life by the sea. As a kid in Qatar I used to beg my father to take me to see ships, especially tankers. I have been attracted to sailing vessels all my life.’
You got into the yachting business at the French Riviera.
Some thirty years ago, I began my career in yachting with Mr. George Nicholson in Solidmark, in Cannes. That was an amazing experience: I sold ten yachts in my first year, which was definitely beginner’s luck. I went on to sell forty more yachts working there.
What was George Nicholson like? What can you tell us about his affection for the former Yugoslavia?
George Nicholson was and still is a walking encyclopedia of yachting and a yachting guru who built around a hundred large yachts without much fuss, without much advertising – remember, that was before Internet – and without the arrogance which nowadays seems to be a common thing in the yachting business. George was in love with the former Yugoslavia and took his clients on Adriatic cruises. He used to say the Adriatic coast was magic place, like a yachting Disney World; uniquely beautiful and magically attractive. He infected me with that passion for yachting and in the four years I worked under him taught me so much that many don’t learn as much throughout their lifetime. It was George, by the way, who brought Peter Munk over to invest in Tivat and Porto Montenegro.
You played your part in creating Porto Montenegro, as well.
Porto Montenegro is Peter Munk’s brainchild. George Nicholson provided the spark to spur him into investing and the rest is history. George asked me what I though back then, and I remember saying, ‘This is a gold mine!’ That was funny, as Mr. Munk was owner of, among other things, Canada’s largest gold mining company.
You are no stranger to OneOcean Port Vell, either. You were their GM?
OOPV, as I call it, is one of the best marinas in the world, as is now Porto Montenegro. OOPV enjoys exquisite location, in the heart of one of the most enjoyable cities in the world and right next to a shipyard. My favorite marina is still Porto Montenegro, though, because it has all a modern marina needs to.
You were also general manager of Benetti Asia.
That was very challenging, but I managed to sell two yachts in eighteen months; one in Hong Kong and the other to a Japanese client, Tokyo Metropolitan Government. That yacht is being built as we speak and will be ready for the 2020 Olympics. Those two years in Asia were an incredible experience, seeing how every Asian country, from India to New Zealand, is completely unique.
What were your duties in Ocean Independence?
In Ocean Independence I worked with my old friend and co-owner of the company, Mr. Nick Dean, whom I met during my time with George Nicholson in Cannes. I was a broker there, I sold yachts – the last yacht Nick and I sold together was Amels 52 meters Were Dreams.
What role do you play in Porto Montenegro?
Seeing how rich my experience is in all segments of the yachting industry, and taking into consideration I have been in the industry for over thirty years, Porto Montenegro management hired me to be their strategic consultant for yachting. The team at Porto Montenegro is fantastic and I enjoy working there. Executive director of Porto Montengro, Mr. David Margason, is one of the best directors I have ever worked with. Together we have decided to turn Porto Montenegro into the third yachting hub in the Mediterranean. We have a lot going for us: one of the most beautiful marinas in the world, the shipyard in Bijela, the exquisite Adriatic coast from Kopar to Ulcinj.
The recently founded Adriatic Yacht Association (AYA) has the same goal – but that’s no surprise, as you are behind that project, too.
AYA is a work of love created by all of us yachting experts in the Adriatic. I am but a small piece of that outstanding association that aims to promote, but also preserve our beautiful Adriatic coast.
What are the short- and long-term plans of the association?
Short-term, we wish to attract and connect everyone involved in the yachting business, all companies and individuals; skippers, brokers, shipyards. Our goal is to avoid finding ourselves in a situation similar to the one the Western yachting is in: isolation of businesses, disorganization. Our long-term goal is reaching and maintaining a certain level of yachting; giving AYA and her individual members a presence in the Adriatic and worldwide. Finally, AYA is here to support every effort leading to the Adriatic becoming the third – and largest – yachting hub in the Mediterranean.
Last question: you have sailed around the world.
Yes, I have had that pleasure. I got lucky; I sailed the world on a classical German sailboat, with a great owner and a fantastic crew. A voyage like that truly opens your eyes to the fact the whole world is nothing but one tiny oyster.
Photos Darko Šupuk