It is with great sadness that we announce that Lagoon is grieving the loss of an illustrious professional from the boating world, a colleague admired by all: Jean-François de Prémorel. He left us on July 14th 2020, taken by illness.
We’re especially thinking of his family and loved ones at this time.
We wanted to pay tribute to him with these few words from Annette Roux, President of the Bénéteau Foundation and a key figure in the Bénéteau Group:
“It is with great sorrow that we must tell you that Jean-François de Prémorel has passed away. He wasn't quite 64 and had only just begun to enjoy his free time.
Our loving thoughts go out to his wife and children, who were with him, surrounding him with tenderness during his short illness.
Like François Chalain, Jean-François was one of the key figures in French sailing. Both were world-renowned masters: one at Bénéteau, the other at Jeanneau, and then together. We owe them a lot.
Jean-François was an extremely talented and endearing character, and when in 1995 our two companies came together, catamaran building was in its infancy. To keep him happy, we accepted to keep this small, unprofitable sector going. And yet, under the impetus of Dieter Gust and his teams, it was to become the prestigious Lagoon brand. Jean-François was a visionary: men gifted with this quality are rare.
We pay tribute to you Jean-François, and thank you from all of us.
We join in with what your children so beautifully wrote to the Hoëdic Yacht Club.
“We told him he could leave, with Bob Marley in mind...
Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right....””
We also wanted to share with you the story of his career and his great contribution to the Lagoon brand:
Lagoon was born somewhat by chance.
Back in 1984, Jean-François de Prémorel was commissioned by Philippe Poupon build Fleury Michon VII, a catamaran based on Michel Joubert's design, built for the first time by the Les Herbiers-based shipyard on France’s west coast. Once construction was completed, Jean-François set off on other adventures, including the beginnings of what was to become Multiplast, at the time located in Nantes.
Called back a few months later for the Fleury Michon VIII project, designed by his friend Nigel Irens, he suggested to Michel Richard, Jeanneau's CEO, that he should set up a department dedicated to the manufacture of racing prototypes: this was to become be ATA (Atelier Techniques Avancées), and later, JTA.
But what could this team do between the construction of two prototypes?
Jean-François then launched a small series of Formula 40s based on Nigel Irens designs, as well as Formula 1 & 3000, but this wasn’t enough to keep the teams going.
It was then that an opportunity presented itself that he was going to seize at once (he wasn’t nicknamed John McEnroe for nothing): he accepted an order for a 55' cruising catamaran, followed by a request for a sistership, for the brother of the first buyer. Jean-François felt that the project might have a future, especially as the plans drawn by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost, whose first design he built (the Gérard Lambert foiler), were very beautiful. Instead of making simple preforms, he invested in molds, which he thought at the time he could use to produce 5 or 6 boats.
With no advertising, no distribution network, no real time to devote to it, the first Lagoon 55s, then 57s, made their way into a fledgling market, a beginner's market, helped along by French tax exemption schemes.
Very quickly, demand exceeded production capacity, and he launched into an agreement with the TPI shipyard in Connecticut, which was manufacturing J-Boats, to build the Lagoon 42 and then 37, mainly intended for charter in the West Indies, and started building a factory in Nantes, France, where the Lagoon 47 was born. Between 1987 and 1992 Jean-François turned the pretty name of Lagoon into a real brand.
As the brand was well-born, and he disagreed with the management that took over the Jeanneau shipyard after the crisis that arose following the Gulf War in 1991, he joined forces with Annette Roux and the Bénéteau shipyard, to take over the management of the Marion plant in South Carolina, USA, before coming back to manage Jeanneau following the merger of Beneteau and Jeanneau in 1996.
Very quickly (combining the words “very quickly” with “Jean-François” is an unnecessary foregone conclusion), he took over from François Chalain, whose encyclopedic knowledge and ingenious intuitions he drew on, to direct the brand strategy of the new Beneteau Group, and then devoted himself to developing the Prestige brand, which he successfully grew.
Wholesome, energetic, visionary, Jean-François sympathetically observed the radical change of direction that his Lagoon brand began to take in 1996, leaving the team members he had set up himself to take over.
Beyond his qualities as a strategist and leader of men, Jean-François de Prémorel was above all a man of the sea, happy on the water like nowhere else, and it was at sea that he revealed his true character of generosity and sharing.
His death will leave a great void among his loved ones.
Jean-François de Prémorel, the Lagoon teams will be forever grateful to you.
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