I return private yachts to repo when the owners do not meet their loan obligations

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  • Ken Cage retains ownership of high-end luxury assets such as yachts and planes, whose owners have defaulted on their loans.
  • Since 2005, Cage’s team has reclaimed 2,000 boats, some of which cost up to $ 20 million.
  • This is what his work looks like, as told by freelance writer Jenny Powers.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page

I first met my buddy Bob Weeks when we were 10, growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Now, nearly five decades later, we are in a joint business taking yachts and private jets across the country.

Our job is to track down high-value assets from people who have defaulted on their bank loans. We are, after all, the bank’s last resort. When a bank calls me and formalizes a repo agreement, it means that they have exhausted all their internal efforts – their automatic reminders, follow-up phone calls, overdue letters and administrative attempts to repay the money were largely ignored by the borrower.

I usually arrive 60-65 days after the expired mark.

Ken Cage's yacht repo

90ft yacht from one of Cage’s repo.

Courtesy of Ken Cage


Once my repo team connects, it’s time to take things up a notch. My job is to get the collateral in any way I can, service it, sell it to a third party and return the money to the bank. My company only charges between $ 400 and $ 1,000 for the actual restoration; our present payday comes from the sale of the asset itself. The standard commission of a yacht broker is 10%, but the rate decreases as the value of the yacht rises, and we conduct individual negotiations with our clients.

Since Bob and I bought an existing repo company based in Florida in 2005, we have taken back 2,000 boats and sold over half of them, from Trojan 32 ‘for $ 1000 1975 to Benetti 160’ + for $ 20 mln.

In most cases, when a bank provides us with a repo agreement, they provide very few details.

Removing the cables from the dock to pick up the boat.  Ken Cage

Removing the cables from the dock to pick up the boat.

Courtesy of Ken Cage


We usually get the name and last known address of the debtor, as well as the year, make and model of the boat, as well as the hull ID or VIN number. The rest is up to us.

Banks can also open repo agreements for several repo companies at the same time, which makes our job even more difficult, because then there is a race for who can find the asset and make the repo first.

This happened to me and my partner, Danny Thompson, when we were on the Discovery Channel’s Airplane Repo in 2014. We were taking back ownership of a custom built yacht for $ 3 million when another repo team showed up and started towing the boat with us on it. Danny managed to cut the towline and I drove the boat away, leaving the rest of the repo guys behind us. This work alone earned us a commission of $ 300,000.

For each repo, we start with an online search in government registries. We also check the history of the US Coast Guard, which provides information on the chain of ownership and any yacht name changes. Then we start calling. Sometimes we can find a boat with just one call thanks to local spotters across the country who are tracking us.

After all, I’m not here to embarrass anyone – I’m here to get the bank’s assets back.

Ken Cage Azimuth Yacht.

Repo “Azimut”.

Courtesy of Ken Cage


When I meet face to face with a debtor, I always tell them that no one should know why I am here. I don’t care, they can tell outsiders that I buy a boat from them and they rob me. If they cooperate, they can save face. It’s all about getting into their egos. One guy even helped me by hooking up his repo boat so it doesn’t look bad.

Often, deep down, debtors are simply relieved that it’s over; they know it’s only a matter of time before we catch up with them. But there are warlike types who are ready to fight. I had a guy in the Chesapeake Bay area of ​​Maryland who chained his boat’s propeller to the dock in hopes of damaging it as a final shot down the shore.

Over the years, I have raced at high speed at sea and land and dodged booby traps set up by angry debtors.

Ken Cage's yacht repo

Cage drives a rep yacht and rides a jet ski in search of another yacht.

Courtesy of Ken Cage


I dealt with professional athletes, twice my size, who wanted to fight me, drunk, shooting a shovel in my head, they shot at him, whatever.

Despite the fact that boats surround me, I never had one because I did not have time to enjoy it. From 2005 to 2012, I was on the road about 250 days a year. But now that my four kids are older, we are about to get a 24-30 foot fun family boat. One thing I know for sure: I will pay for it in cash.

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