On the 30th of September 2021, Exel Industries announced the acquisition of several shipyards. Among them, a historic company founded by an entrepreneur with a passion for sailing. Who is Henri Wauquiez, the founder of Chantiers Wauquiez?
Henri Wauquiez was born on the 18th of February 1934 into a dynasty of tanners established in the North of France. His father, passed on to him from an early age his great passion for entrepreneurship and for work well accomplished.
After completing his secondary education at the Carmes d’Avon school, Henri Wauquiez pursued his education in England at the Northampton Tannery School. He graduated with an engineering degree and an organic chemistry degree.
Then, Henri Wauquiez did his military service in the ALAT (French Army Light Aviation). As a great enthusiast, he took the opportunity to get his pilot’s licence. He was then sent to Algeria in 1955 as a second lieutenant.
Henri Wauquiez has been fascinated by sailing since he was young. Every summer, he cruised along the Mediterranean Coast with his wife Véronique. In 1964, the couple purchased an Elizabethan 29, an 8.8m long sloop-rigged yacht designed by the talented Kim Holman.
Inspired, Henri Wauquiez contacted Kim Holman to work with Webster's shipyards located in the south of England. Indeed, the future entrepreneur wanted to sell the boat to the French market. Throughout the summer, Henri and Véronique Wauquiez passionately introduced their ships and were very successful.
Due to the overwhelming number of orders, Webster's English shipyards were unable to produce all the boats on time. It was at this point that Henri Wauquiez made a decision that would transform his life.
Henri Wauquiez decided to produce the Elizabethan 29 himself by transforming part of the family tannery into what would eventually become Chantiers Wauquiez.
The architect Kim Holman was so impressed by Henri Wauquiez's meticulous work that he decided to keep on working with him. In 1968, he designed the Centurion 32, a 9.75m long fixed keel sloop-rigged yacht. This emblematic sailboat was produced in 380 units.
Henri Wauquiez made the shipyards a family business when he decided to hire his father, a victim of the crisis in the leather industry. Chantiers Wauquiez kept on growing until it became a real leader in the nautical field, highly appreciated by all sailing enthusiasts.
Since 1965, Chantiers Wauquiez has been providing sailors with high-performance, comfortable and elegant luxury yachts. The passion that drives the Wauquiez team is passed on through the construction of excellent boats, specially designed for those whose lives are driven by the waves.
The expertise of Chantiers Wauquiez has evolved with technological innovations to offer durable and authentic luxury sailboats. The oldest designs are still sought by passionate collectors.
Henri Wauquiez has incorporated his DNA into his company. The names of some of his most famous creations, Centurion, Gladiator or Praetorian, come from the book "Guerre d'Algérie" by Jean Lartéguy, the founder's favourite piece of literature.
In 1985, Henri Wauquiez's talent was officially rewarded by France. French President François Mitterrand decorated the entrepreneur with the National Order of Merit. The company's export success was celebrated, as was Henri Wauquiez's work as president of the Nautical Industries federation.
By deciding to acquire the Wauquiez shipyard in 2021, Exel Industries is affirming its ambition to diversify into the nautical field. Boats have many common features with other activities of the group, thanks to their small series production, their premium equipment and their high level of innovation.
Patrick Ballu, Chairman of the Board of Exel Industries, says he already has several patents in mind in the nautical field. For the group, this is the beginning of a new era, with the aim of relaunching the activity of Chantiers Wauquiez to take full advantage of the company's potential.
The Ballu family also has a great passion for sailing. Vincent Ballu, Patrick Ballu's father, owned two Wauquiez on which the whole family sailed. The current Chairman of the Board even admits to spending more than a month a year at sea and has done so since he was a teenager.
This passion is another element of the Exel Industries' interest in the historic company that is Wauquiez. For the already diversified family-owned group, it is also a way to include an activity related to a different cycle than its usual sectors, with a French expertise.
With this acquisition, Exel Industries hopes to reconnect with the powerful image of Wauquiez while benefiting from the financial strength of the Exel Industries Group to develop the brand.
Find out more about the Wauquiez brand on https://www.wauquiez.com/
“We have everything we need to continue to move the Group forward.”
Check out EXEL Industries' 2021-2022 Annual Report
First quarter 2022–2023 sales: up 16.1%
2021–2022 full-year results