The Staggering Cost of Owning a Superyacht

The New York Times pulls together what buying and running a $300 million yacht will set you back.

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The yacht Amadea of sanctioned Russian Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, seized by the Fiji government at the request of the US, arrives at the Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, June 16, 2022.
The yacht Amadea of sanctioned Russian Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, seized by the Fiji government at the request of the US, arrives at the Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, June 16, 2022.
Photo: Eugene TANNER / AFP (Getty Images)

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

The Times breaks down all of the costs for a middle-of-the-road $300 million yacht, from locating and paying a broker ($9 million) to the little luxury add-ons. 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 pile up, until that $300 million pleasure cruiser is cresting costs 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, is reportedly displayed on the yacht of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Of course, much of the story is centered around Russian oligarchs and the “difficult” year they’ve had at sea. From the Times:

Fewer eye-popping vessels are departing from the ports of Monaco and Portofino, and recent world events have led to a reckoning with just how many of those boats are linked to unsavory money.

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

The seized boats range in size from about 130 feet (about three New York City buses) to about 500 feet (13 buses). At the highest end, they can cost on the order of $600 million, which is what Dilbar, by some measures the world’s largest yacht, reportedly sold for. (Dilbar, which is linked to the oligarch Alisher Usmanov, was seized by Germany in April.)

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But what’s really the difference between a Russian oligarch’s superyacht and and an American’s? Nothing more than which agency seizes it after an investigation. Our homegrown oligarchs buy just as ridiculously elaborate vessels in order to “...absorb the most excess capital.” Jeff Bezos, the guy who nearly dismantled a major piece of infrastructure to get his yacht from the shipbuilders, eventually makes an appearance way down in the story in a section regarding dinghies ($80,000 and up):

Some of these trailing boats are megayachts themselves, like the estimated $60 million, 246-foot “yacht support vessel” that will follow Jeffrey Bezos’s $500 million, 417-foot schooner. Toys aboard a yacht support vessel might include a McLaren car (which have sold at auction for as much as $20 million), a helicopter ($3 million) or an increasingly de rigueur personal submarine ($2.5 million to $4 million), as well as an assortment of more pedestrian-priced toys like Jet Skis, Seabobs, A.T.V.s and underwater scooters.

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

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The Times brings it back around to Russians though, mentioning off hand how oligarch and superyacht trendsetter Roman Abramovich once lost a 371-foot yacht in a poker game. As you take a break from your labors this weekend, maybe grilling up some burgers (or hotdogs, cause inflation) imagine what the life of someone who loses a 371-foot Yacht in a poker game looks like. Someone analogous to these type of folks run your own country and its largest employers. Then, join a union.