Feuding Billionaire Buys $20 Million Yacht as Wealthy Thrive

Dmitry Rybolovlev owns all the must-have items for the super-wealthy.

There’s the Manhattan penthouse that he bought for his daughter, the European soccer club, the expensive artworks and, of course, several yachts.

But in this latest gilded age, there’s always room for more. In this case, the Russian billionaire has just taken delivery of the Skorpios, a 43-meter (140-foot) racing yacht, which cost $20 million and took four years to build, a person familiar with the matter said.

Feuding Billionaire Buys $20 Million Yacht as Wealthy Thrive

Appropriately enough, it’s named after the private Greek island where shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis married Jackie Kennedy in 1968, which Rybolovlev’s daughter Ekaterina paid $153 million for through her trust in 2013.

It’s the latest example of how the super-rich are spending vast amounts on mansions, art and superyachts, with Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos and Steven Spielberg also reported to be getting new boats. Spending at the ultra-luxury end is poised to continue after the world’s 500 richest added $1.8 trillion to their combined net worth last year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“There is confidence in the market,” said Richard Lambert, a senior partner and head of sales at London-based yacht broker Burgess. “For a lot of multiple owners, it’s a question of thinking: ‘Life is too short. Let’s do this and make the most of life.’”

The purchase comes after a tumultuous few years for Rybolovlev, who’s been involved in a long-running feud with an art dealer over billions of dollars of purchases.

In 2015, he filed a complaint against Yves Bouvier in Monaco, accusing the Swiss dealer of overcharging him by about $1 billion for dozens of canvasses by Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Magritte and others. Bouvier and his lawyers have consistently argued that he was never Rybolovlev’s broker, owed him no fiduciary responsibility, and that the Russian was just a repeat customer willing to pay top prices.

A Monaco judge threw out the original complaint in late 2019. Meanwhile, Geneva prosecutors have announced their intention to close their probe into Rybolovlev’s accusations of fraud.

Rybolovlev, 54, faces a criminal investigation in Switzerland into whether he illegally helped to orchestrate the Monaco arrest of Bouvier in 2015, Bloomberg reported in April. The investigation is ongoing, according to a spokesman for the Swiss Attorney General’s Office.

When asked to comment on the probe, a spokeswoman for Rybolovlev pointed to an earlier statement by the billionaire’s attorneys that strongly denied wrongdoing. Bouvier declined to comment when Bloomberg reported the investigation, beyond saying he wasn’t party to it.

Feuding Billionaire Buys $20 Million Yacht as Wealthy Thrive

Rybolovlev’s trust companies also sued Sotheby’s in 2018 in relation to the affair. Rybolovlev said Bouvier lied to him about how much it cost to purchase paintings and pocketed the difference, and Sotheby’s intentionally made this possible because it knew how much Bouvier paid the sellers. The case is ongoing, according to a spokeswoman for Rybolovlev. Sotheby’s didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.

The Russian billionaire made headlines in 2011 by buying a controlling stake in the soccer team AS Monaco. Under his ownership, the club won France’s top-flight Ligue 1 title in 2016-2017.

He was also the subject of a high-profile divorce from his ex-wife Elena, whom he married in 1987 while they were both studying at a medical school in the Russian city of Perm. The split unfolded over six jurisdictions and resulted in years of acrimony. In 2014, a Swiss judge awarded Elena $4.5 billion, though they settled for much less.

Rybolovlev is worth $10.9 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He made his fortune selling stakes in two Russian fertilizer producers for more than $7 billion about a decade ago.

After graduating from university in 1990 and working in a local emergency room in Perm, Rybolovlev got a brokerage license and opened a trading firm. He invested in potash maker Uralkali PJSC in the early 1990s, eventually building a stake of about 80% and transforming it into one of the world’s major producers. He also owned 20% of another company in the industry, OAO Silvinit.

In 2010, Rybolovlev sold Uralkali to a consortium led by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, and also offloaded his Silvinit stake. He moved to Monaco that year, where he still lives.

Rybolovlev already has two large cruise yachts. He bought his first, a 67-meter vessel, almost 15 years ago, and took delivery of a second one, the 110-meter Anna, from the Dutch shipyard Feadship in 2018. A year earlier, he purchased his first racing yacht, a 17-meter vessel now called the Sparti. Russians account for about 16% of yachts under construction, the second-most worldwide after U.S. buyers, according to research from SuperYacht Times.

His most recent purchase is more than twice as long with a custom-carbon mast, according to the person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It was built in Finland, with an exterior design concept inspired by Greek mythology, the person said. A spokeswoman for Nautor’s Swan, the company that made the yacht, declined to comment.

“Perhaps no other sport gives you such a feeling of freedom and emotional rush,” the billionaire said about yacht racing in an interview with Nautor’s Swan corporate magazine in 2019. “Here, as in business, you need to be able to make quick decisions.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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