U.S. Marshalls arrest a Sunseeker yacht at the center of an ownership dispute as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was ending recently. (Photo by Kevin Turner)
A 74-foot Sunseeker yacht was placed under “arrest” at the conclusion of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Four parties are in court, battling over the $4 million yacht, so U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga signed an order that allowed U.S. Marshalls to move the boat to an undisclosed location while the trial continues.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the 740 Sport Yacht is part of a lawsuit filed by Kevin Turner, who paid $3.8 million to have it built. Turner is suing Sunseeker International in the U.K., Sunseeker USA and Rick Obey & Associates. Turner’s lawsuit, filed in May, says Sunseeker is refusing to credit him with the $4 million he paid Obey to have the boat built.
Judge Altonaga decided to remove the vessel from the control of anyone involved in the lawsuit until the case is settled. The boat was transferred to National Maritime Services, a court-appointed custodian. NMS owner Alan Swimmer declined to say where the boat would be stored. He said that about 100 vessel “arrests” happen each year around the world. “It happens when there’s a commercial dispute over a vessel,” he told the paper.
Obey and Sunseeker are locked in separate legal disputes. Obey told the paper that the problems started when the builder refused to take responsibility for an engine failure on another Sunseeker. Turner’s suit alleges that, because of this, Obey stopped making payments for boats under construction. Turner’s boat was one of those.
Sunseeker International sent a statement to Trade Only Today saying that the “circumstances” around Turner’s lawsuit “arise from civil disputes that are pending over the non-payment for the vessel, by the selling dealer, Rick Obey and Associates (ROAA). The disputes are being addressed appropriately through judicial process.”
Sunseeker USA said that it terminated its dealer agreement with Obey Associates “for material default and in order to prevent future harm to customers and the public.” It added that it “continues to pursue all appropriate remedies against the party responsible for unlawful conduct.”
Turner told the paper that it took about a week to confirm that his boat was the one being shown at the Fort Lauderdale show. “That’s when we started the arrest action” in federal court, Turner said.
Obey told the paper that the whole situation happened because of Sunseeker’s decision to sell his territory to a new dealer after 20 years. He said that he was sorry to see Turner caught in the middle. “Kevin’s in a spot," Obey said. "He’s actually my friend, but unfortunately he has to sue me because I sold him the boat. He’s a great guy. He doesn’t deserve this.”
Obey said he told Sunseeker to release the boat to Turner last summer. He said the company had the funds $3.8 million that Obey had previously paid for the new build.
This article originally appeared in Trade Only Today, a sister publication in the AIM Marine Group.