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The staggering cost of owning a superyacht

Sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov's yacht Amadea, seized by the Fijian government at the request of the United States, arrives at the port of Honolulu, Hawaii on June 16, 2022.

Sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov’s yacht Amadea, seized by the Fijian government at the request of the United States, arrives at the port of Honolulu, Hawaii on June 16, 2022.
Photo: Eugene TANNER / AFP (Getty Images)

Just in time for Labor Day, the New York Times published a detailed account of what it takes to not only buy a superyacht, but keep that superyacht filled with the kind of fine art and silly toys that set your gigantic boat apart from all other gigantic boats also filled with fine art and ridiculous toys.

The Time breaks down all the costs of a $300 million yacht in the middle of the road, from locating and paying a broker ($9 million) to the small luxury add-so. You know, $1.5 million for an onboard disco here, $2 million for a panic room there. At least $3 million for crew salaries. The Costs Really Add Up, Until This $300 Million Pleasure Cruiser Costs More over $400 million. Then there’s the art, which can cost as much as the whole boat. The most expensive painting ever sold, “Salvador Mundi”, by Leonardo da Vinci, would be displayed on the yacht of Mohammad bin Salmanthe Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Of course, much of the story centers on the Russian oligarchs and the “difficult” year they had at sea. Time:

Fewer and fewer stunning ships are departing from the ports of Monaco and Portofino, and recent world events have led to a determination of how many of these boats are tied up in disreputable money.

After the invasion of Ukraine, more than a dozen yachts belonging to people with ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin were seized by European and American authorities. Other such boats have landed in countries like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have a relatively comfortable relationship with Russia. (None of the alleged owners responded to comment for this article.)

The size of the seized boats ranges from about 130 feet (about three New York buses) to about 500 feet (13 buses). At the highest level, they can cost in the order of $600 million, which Dilbar, by some measures, the largest yacht in the world, would have sold. (Dilbar, who is related to oligarch Alisher Usmanovwas seized by Germany in April.)

But what is really the difference between the superyacht of a Russian oligarch and a Americans? Nothing more than to know which agency seizes it after investigation. Our local oligarchs buy similarly ridiculously elaborate ships in order to “absorb the most excess capital”. Jeff Bezos, the guy which nearly dismantled a major infrastructure to get his yacht from shipbuilders, eventually makes an appearance throughout the story in a section regarding dinghies ($80,000+):

Some of those trailing boats are megayachts themselves, like the estimated $60 million, 246-foot “yacht support vessel” that will follow Jeffrey Bezos’ 417-foot, $500 million schooner. Toys aboard a yacht support vessel can include a McLaren car (which has sold at auction for up to $20 million), a helicopter ($3 million) or a more and more rigorous personal submarine ($2.5 million to $4 million), as well as an assortment of more affordable pedestrian-friendly toys like Jet Skis, Seabobs, ATVs, and Underwater Scooters.

And a billionaire who wants to catch tuna and marlin might have a fishing boat floating behind that can cost up to $20 million.

The Time Brings it back to the Russians though, mentioning right off the bat how oligarch and superyacht pioneer Roman Abramovich once lost a 110 meter yacht in a game of poker. As you take a break from work this weekend, maybe grilling hamburgers (or hot dogs, cause of inflation), imagine what the life of someone who loses a 371-foot yacht in a game of poker looks like. Someone like that kind of people runs your own country and its biggest employers. So, unionize.