Robert Braithwaite, CBE, passed away today after a long illness, he was the co-founder of the iconic British boat building company Sunseeker with John Macklin.
In the 1960’s, Braithwaite worked at Friar’s Cliff Marine, a dealer for US boat builder Owens Cruisers Inc.
Friar’s Cliff Marine became Poole Powerboats in 1969 when it moved into the town of Poole and then a dramatic turn of events steered the direction of the firm forever.
Back in the USA, Owens Cruisers decided they would no longer distribute their craft to Europe, announcing their decision to close the UK operation down.
It was at this point that Braithwaite saw a unique opportunity. With the blessing of others, he raised some cash, drove to Owens’ offices in Arundel, and negotiated a deal to acquire their boat moulds.
The first craft to launch was the Sovereign 17 in 1971, closely followed by the Sovereign 20.
By 1972, the company was exhibiting at the Southampton Boat Show and keen to meet new customers.
The company laterly introduced the Sports 23 and the Daycab 23 and Poole Powerboats became Sunseeker.
With a new collaboration with raceboat designer Don Shead, Sunseeker quickly expanded into the growing Mediterranean market.
Braithwaite grew Sunseeker by continuing to expand its shipyards in Poole and create a widening global distributor network. In 2002 Braithwaite was awarded Ernst & Young UK Entrepreneur of the Year.
He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honors in 2007.
After Sunseeker appeared in four consecutive James Bond films, Braithwaite was asked to appear in a cameo role in the film Quantum of Solace.
The scene with Robert Braithwaite was filmed on location in Italy in April 2008, and features James Bond in a Sunseeker Sovereign 17, one of the company’s very first open cockpit speedboats.
On 19 June 2013 it was announced that the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group had agreed to buy a 91.8% stake in Sunseeker for £320m.