Louis Chenevert: The Business Giant Who Took to the Sea

It’s no surprise that Louis Chenevert loves building yachts. Now semi-retired from running major corporations like United Technologies and General Motors, Chenevert’s experience in these industries serves him well as a yacht builder. During a recent interview, he said, “Everything I touch, I’m passionate about. I love technology, and I’m always trying to build a boat with the latest technology, which can be challenging.”

A Meticulous Process

Building a yacht is no easy feat. It takes patience and a willingness to dive into the details of construction. Up to now, Chenevert has built three yachts, which include a Hatteras 63, a Horizon 85, and a Horizon P105, which is his most recent vessel. Named the Debbie Lou, the yacht is heavily customized with commercial-grade equipment and electronics in addition to a helm station that a cruise-ship captain would be comfortable operating.

To make the boat, Chenevert needed cooperation from Horizon, the renowned yacht company. Because the yacht builder was familiar with his earlier requirements, Chenevert was able to work closely with Horizon to make sure that the Debbie Lou featured his exact specifications. He traveled to the company’s Taiwan-based yard several times in three years. Louis’s captain was also present for several months during the yacht’s construction while his marine surveyor supervised some of the boat’s vital structural and fiberglass work. Along with taking these steps, Chenevert also discussed the details of the yacht during conference calls with Horizon.

Chenevert is 6 feet 6 inches tall. Due to his height, he needed to build the yacht with the proper helm ergonomics and viewing angles for safety purposes. To get the equipment specs just right, Chenevert traded notes with his captain through a mutual Dropbox account. Horizon sent CAD drawings to him so that he could have virtual meetings based on certain design details that were important to him.

A Tight Connection

Developing the Debbie Lou required an enormous amount of owner-contributed vision. It also required the cooperation of a world-class yacht builder as well as a tight connection between the client and the builder. Louis Chenevert and Horizon formed this relationship when they were building Chenevert’s earlier yacht, the Horizon 85.

The Horizon team said, “Debbie Lou incorporates the kind of design and technology that you would expect to see on a much larger yacht.” The way that Louis designed the accessibility of the equipment, styling, design and final touches are a tribute to the work and creativity that went into the yacht. It would seem that Chenevert reaped all the benefits of their collaboration since he is the owner of the boat, but Horizon’s team appreciated the challenge that he brought to the company. Horizon is also able to use the boat as an example of what makes the company one of the world’s best yacht builders.

Using Work Experience to Enhance His Passion

Louis Chenevert was the Chairman and CEO of United Technologies, or UTC. When he held this position, the $63 billion industrial corporation stayed ahead of the competition by using innovation in aerospace and building technologies. The company grew to its powerful position without leaving its place of origination. UTC has never oppressed its workers, and it has always operated within the country’s environmental requirements. Keeping a major conglomerate like UTC in such high standing requires leaders who are willing to pay attention to the details. Because Chenevert has these leadership characteristics, he is a natural when it comes to his passion of yacht building.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Chenevert attended HEC Montreal where he earned his bachelor’s degree in commerce specialized in production management. He worked for General Motors for 14 years culminating as the company’s production general manager. In 1993, he accepted a position at Pratt & Whitney Canada. He then served as the company’s president of Pratt & Whitney group. In 2008, he became the president and chief executive officer of UTC. In 2015, Chenevert decided to partially retire, allowing him to focus on his desire to spend time on the ocean, and pursue other ventures.

Years of Planning and Development

In the corporate world, Chenevert has the reputation of being a subtle thinker, one who immersed himself in the particulars of his businesses. Customizing a yacht is a lengthy process. Manufacturing the Debbie Lou to Chenevert’s specifications took 12 to 18 months of planning including the six to eight months spent determining the boat’s electronics. Once the planning process was complete, it took two more years to build the Debbie Lou.

Chenevert said, “Horizon was willing to install anything that I wanted, so I developed my own package. It’s worth having the best there is. It’s all about safety and making sure that things work.” His wife, Debbie, designed the yacht’s décor and interior, so Louis doesn’t take all the credit for his beautiful boat.

Since he and his wife intend to cruise with their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, safety was a major consideration. The Debbie Lou has two radar systems that are commercial-grade and open-array as well as AIS and night vision. It has a satellite-TV receiver and a high-grade transceiver and satellite system giving phone communication and data transmission anywhere around the world. Other high-end features of this customized yacht include five 19-inch pilot-console monitors in the helm. These operate through touch screen. The Debbie Lou also has a GPS system that increases the accuracy of the boat’s location and a backup navigation system. It comes with a fire monitoring system similar to cruise ship and commercial vessel and two 55 kW generators in addition to plenty of sensors and computerized power distribution throughout the yacht.

Showing his business sense, Chenevert took steps to future-proof the Debbie Lou’s operating systems and electronics. He stated that he wants to keep the yacht for at least seven to 10 years. He added commercial-grade gear to the vessel because it’s sturdy and doesn’t become outdated as quickly as standard equipment.

Commercial-grade equipment is long-lasting and able to withstand the harsh conditions that come with being out on the open water. High-end gear like this also helps yachts hold their value. When Chenevert listed his Horizon 85 for sale, he received several offers in the first month. Horizon liked the features that Chenevert added to the Debbie Lou so much that it’s using them on a few large yachts that it’s building.

The Man Who Plans

Louis Chenevert’s ability to think through complex corporate issues is certainly useful when it comes to building yachts. Customizing a boat the size of the Debbie Lou takes a brilliant mind, one that’s able to focus on the finer points. Being semi-retired allows Chenevert to keep his finger on the pulse of the business world even as he explores the physical world by sea searching the next big idea for the industrial and aerospace industry.

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About the Author

Svilen Petrov
My name is Svilen Petrov and I’m founder and chief editor at Wings Journal. Wings Journal is an independent media, which provides you daily with the most interesting and actual news for air companies, airports, and aviation technologies.

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