Billionaires like big boats.
Amazon AMZN, +1.94% founder Jeff Bezos is making headlines after Bloomberg outed him as the owner of the Project Y721 superyacht under construction in the Netherlands.
The 417-foot luxury vessel from Dutch yachtmaker Oceanco boasts three masts, several decks, and a price tag that’s estimated to be upward of $500 million. It will be one of the largest sailing yachts ever built in the Netherlands, which is where many luxury boats for the super-rich are crafted. But this superyacht is missing a helipad — because of all those enormous masts — so Bezos and his helicopter pilot partner, Lauren Sanchez, have commissioned a second “support yacht” complete with helipad. And that support yacht is not included in that initial half-a-billion dollar estimate.
Of course, that’s just pocket change for Bezos, the world’s richest person whose total net worth is within spitting distance of $200 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He just added $75 billion to his wealth last year, alone, as Amazon shares spiked due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures fueling a rise in online shopping.
Turns out, the pandemic has also buoyed luxury boat sales. While Bezos had already commissioned his superyacht a couple of years before the pandemic, other high net worth individuals set their sights on super-sized yachts in 2020 — particularly “explorer yachts” that can cruise for 9,000 nautical miles without needing to refuel. Director Steven Spielberg has reportedly ordered a new yacht, and his current Oceanco superyacht, Seven Seas, has been listed for sale at around $158 million.
So why are luxury yachts floating billionaires’ boats? Well, as fancy galas and high society events were canceled and international travel was largely grounded last year, yachts emerged as an attractive way for those who could afford it to take a trip, host private events and socialize, or just find some privacy away from the paparazzi. Plus, many among the ultra wealthy soon realized that they weren’t losing money last year — in fact, the world’s richest people added $1.8 trillion to their collective fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
So the super-rich had plenty of money to buy fancy boats — even with the operating costs averaging about 10% of a boat’s value, or upward of $60 million a year on the high end.
“The market’s been roaring,” Sam Tucker, head of superyacht research at London-based VesselsValue, told Bloomberg. The number of transactions in recent quarters “was record-breaking — the secondhand market is absolutely red hot. (And) it’s impossible to get a slot in a new-build yard. They’re totally booked.”
So how does Bezos’s superyacht compare with some of the biggest and most expensive boats in the world? Turns out, the $500,000,000 price tag is almost modest.
Russian businessman Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse sails away with the most expensive privately-owned superyacht in the world title; it cost $1.5 billion to make. The 533-foot boat includes: two helipads, two swimming pools, a mini submarine, 24 guest cabins, a dance hall and hot tubs. And then we come to security: there’s an intruder detection missile system, armor plating, bulletproof windows, and motion sensors.
The Azzam, reportedly built for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi’s royal family and delivered in 2013, isn’t the most expensive, but it has been the largest privately-owned superyacht in the world in terms of length for the past several years. The 591-foot-long yacht (180 meters) cost $600 million, and can accommodate 36 guests and 80 crew members, and features a huge main saloon, a special golf training room, a gym and a pool.
And then there’s The Streets of Monaco superyacht built by Yacht Island Design, which is really more like a floating city. The $1 billion, 508-foot-long vessel made to mimic the streets of the French city of Monaco features scaled-down landmarks like the Hotel de Paris and Monaco Casino, plus a racetrack, an atrium, mini waterfall, and more laid out across its four decks.