Abramovich's Navy: the world's largest superyacht fleet
Relatively small prior to the 2000s, the superyacht industry was perhaps most affected during its golden years by a fleet assembled by one single owner. Indeed, no less than 7 yachts were linked to Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich through the past decade.
Whereas his flagship 162m Eclipse, once the largest yacht in the world, remains the most jaw-dropping, his previous yachts remain no less a step forward for the artisanal yachting sector.
Valued by Forbes at $9.1 billion and currently sitting as the 12th richest man in Russia, Roman Abramovich has owned many yachts throughout the years. One of his most significant vessels became the 115-meter Lurssen, Pelorus. Initially developed for the Saudi owner of the 72-meter Coral Island, Pelorus was the 11th largest yacht in the world at the time of her delivery in 2003.
A few months prior to her delivery, her owner, however, decided to sell his superyacht, which was then the largest yacht ever built by Lurssen. The highest bid to acquire the yacht came from Abramovich who soon took over her ownership. Following this, he had a second helipad added on her bow and the yacht was used extensively for nearly four years.
As Abramovich went through a divorce in 2007, he gave the 115-meter yacht to his ex wife. In turn, she eventually sold the yacht in May 2011 to Dreamworks co-founder, David Geffen. The media mogul did not hold on to the yacht for long. Indeed, the Rising Sun owner resold it to the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi later that year for €214 million as became known through the Panama Papers leaks.
The latest chapter in Pelorus' history came in the summer of 2016 as the media speculated that she may have been purchased by Chinese billionaire, Samuel Tak Lee. Evidence of this remains to be seen, however, it is known that Lee spent was onboard the yacht several times during the summer of 2016 although this may have been a long term charter as well.
Other than her list of high profile owners, Pelorus also inspired a range of superyachts later built by Lurssen for other Russian billionaires on a similar engineering platforms. These have included the 110-meter Radiant, originally ordered by the late Berezovsky, one of Abramovich's early partners as well as the 110-meter Ona, built for Alisher Usmanov and originally named Dilbar.
Abramovich's high profile yacht ownership also included what became the world's first support yacht, the 112-meter Le Grand Bleu. Built for US billionaire John McCaw in 2000, the support yacht was acquired by Abramovich in 2003, as he also took ownership of Pelorus.
One of the most salient features of the explorer was her ability to carry an unprecedented amount of toys, tenders and sailing yachts. Her arsenal, in fact, included a 21-meter Sunseeker day boat, a Dubois sailing yacht as well as several tenders and jet skis. A helipad could be found aft of the yacht with a dedicated area for helicopter operations. The guest areas were located forward of the yacht, looking out onto the yacht's bow.
Since Le Grand Bleu, a whole category of support yachts has emerged, inspired by its original use. Custom built for some high profile owners in the Middle East, support yachts entered mainstream culture when DAMEN, the parent company of Amels, started manufacturing semi-custom support yachts in their Sea Axe category. Whilst these do not have the guest space that Le Grand Bleu did, they are built to carry lots of toys.
In 2006, Abramovich gave up ownership of Le Grand Bleu in favor of one of his business partners, Eugene Schvidler. The US-based billionaire remains in possession of the yacht to this day and recently stationed it near the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Following the sale of Le Grand Bleu, Abramovich embarked on his first megayacht construction project, developing the 115-meter Luna.
Built by Lloyd Werft and delivered in 2010, Luna became a more refined version of Le Grand Bleu, featuring a more open aft deck and two helipads up on the sundeck instead of the aft deck. At the time of her delivery, she also featured the world's largest swimming pool onboard a superyacht. A trend that has since caught on and been adopted by many superyachts around the world.
Luna was sold in 2014 to Russian billionaire, Farkhad Akhmedov who then commissioned a refit of the yacht that cost an estimated near €50 million. One of the key changes became the fairing of the yacht, which was previously left unfaired to reflect is strength and power. The open main aft deck was also upgraded. To this day, Luna remains one of the most talked about explorers on the water.
The smallest vessel with which Abramovich has been known to be associated with was the 50-meter Feadship, Sussurro. Initially built for a Middle Eastern client, she was later purchased by the Russian billionaire. Designed by Terence Disdale, the yacht could reach a maximum speed of 46 knots. It is worth noting that Abramovich's late partner, Berezovsky also had a similar 50-meter fast yacht called Thunder B.
The reason most people are familiar with Abramovich's influence on the superyacht space is however his latest yacht and flagship, the 162.5-meter Eclipse. Delivered in 2010, the same year as his explorer, Luna, the 162.5-meter was the largest yacht in the world at the time of her launch and remains the runner up to this day. Designed by Terence Disdale as well, she stretched across a beam of 22 meters.
Eclipse's sheer size remains mesmerizing to this day, even in a world where a 180-meter Azzam cruises in the Middle East. Launched in June 2009, the yacht was handed over to her owner by German shipyard Blohm+Voss in 2010. Amongst her known features were a helipad, beach club aft of the lower deck as well as a tender garage amidst ship.
In 2011, Eclipse famously appeared on the charter market, which led to much speculation in the yachting industry. Whilst some considered the listing to be genuine, others believed that it was purely an advertisement put out to satisfy the requirements to be commercially registered. Recent reports have, however, suggested that the yacht could indeed be rented.
Following her delivery, Eclipse initially embarked on a world tour, extensively cruising in North America, the Caribbean as well as the Mediterranean. At the end of 2015, the yacht was hauled out at Blohm+Voss, now a part of Lurssen, for some maintenance work. Features onboard include a 200 square meter swimming platform as well as a large pool aft of the main deck and two helicopter landing pads.
Valued at $9.1 billion by Forbes, Abramovich currently sits as the 12th richest man in Russia. The 51 year old started his business career in 1988 as the head of a regional toy manufacturing cooperative. In the early 1990s, he ventured primarily into oil.
His most significant investment came as, together with Berezovsky, he acquired the controlling interest in Sibneft, a large oil company into which the pair invested $100 million each. Some quarters later, their investment was worth billions. The sale of 73% of Sibneft to Gazprom in 2005 racked in $13 billion for him and his partners.
Outside of the yachting industry, Abramovich has become primarily known as the owner of the Chelsea football club. Indeed in 2003, the Russian billionaire acquired the club from Ken Bates in a deal that valued the club at £140 million according to the Telegraph. In addition to football, Abramovitch also served as the governor of Chukotka.