Word With... Mark Buhler
Raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mark Buhler helped his father and
three brothers build their first vessel—an eight-foot sailboat—when
he was 12. His father, Vance Buhler, ultimately became a well-known builder
of catamarans and trimarans. After graduating from law school in 1982,
Buhler pursued maritime law. Today he’s a partner at Holland &
Knight LLP in Orlando, Florida, where he specializes in yacht transactions
and represents buyers, sellers, lenders, and builders of high-end yachts.
PMY recently caught up with Buhler to discuss the legal side of
the boating business.
Q: Helping people
buy and sell megayachts must be an arduous task. What’s the hardest
part of the process?
A: Dealing with sensitive egos may be the most challenging part.
Owners of big yachts are typically high-powered people who run large companies.
They are used to giving orders and having their minions carry them out.
They are used to driving hard bargains and getting what they want when
they want it. When two such people meet in a yacht transaction, there
can be a clash of the titans. You sometimes have to be not only a lawyer,
but quite a diplomat.
Q: Having seen
so many transactions, what mistakes do boaters typically make?
A: For buyers, the most frequent mistake is signing a contract
before they get a maritime lawyer involved. Signing a typical broker’s
form of agreement can lead to big problems down the road. Such forms often
do not provide an effective financial recourse for the buyer for maritime
liens that may be asserted after the closing. My advice is to hire an
experienced maritime lawyer at the very outset. For sellers, I’d
say one of the things to watch is what will happen if the buyer breaches
the contract. The typical broker’s agreement requires the seller
to give half of the standard ten-percent deposit to the broker if the
buyer fails to close. These provisions can be renegotiated differently
to protect the seller’s interests.
Q: What are your
most memorable cases?
A: One recent case became very interesting when U.S. Marshals arrested,
handcuffed, and physically removed from the premises the headstrong owner
of a yacht-building company who, in violation of court orders, obstructed
the removal of our client’s yacht from his premises.
Q: What do you
enjoy most in your work?
A: The best part is working with people who are not just clients,
but who become friends. Doing things socially with clients, including
going out on their yachts, is much more satisfying than just working for
them and sending them a bill. I really like working with boaters, they
have better priorities. They understand that there are better ways to
spend their time than just making money.
Have you always dreamed of sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office
but security keeps stopping you? If you really want to emulate the Commander-in-Chief,
you could buy an ex-President’s boat instead.
A recent cruise through
the used-boat ads at Fountain Powerboats’ Web site turned up one
listing with a remarkable selling point: a 31-footer formerly owned by
George H. Bush.
The 1998 center-console
model, named Fidelity II, was advertised with twin Mercury 225
EFI outboards and a fully packed helm. The current owner also promised
to deliver a letter of authenticity proving the Presidential heritage.
How much does it cost
to acquire a piece of Bush history? The Fountain was listed at $64,999.
If you’re interested, check out www.fountainpowerboats.com/sp_salepres.htm
to see if she’s still on the market.
> Monster Waves, and more > Page 1,