The most expensive yachts are not owned by the richest people, why?

Yachts are pretty high on the shopping list for people that desire the very best. Regardless of their size, it is one of the most expensive things a man can own and operate. A yacht is the pinnacle of luxury and decadence as it can offer the very best in living conditions and unique experiences.

And it would appear that everybody likes or at least can appreciate a beautiful yacht. They seem to be the embodiment of freedom and privacy. The yacht is reminiscent of the early days of expensive cars. Their owners are able to go anywhere and do anything. And seeing that the market for yachts over 40 meters (131 ft) long just keeps on booming, don’t be surprised if you see one of these beauties on remote routes like the Arctic Northwest Passage.

You would think that such expensive and beautiful, luxury prize ships would be owned by the richest people in the world. And you would be somewhat right. But things are not that straightforward. Not all extremely wealthy individuals own yachts, and the most expensive ones in the world are not owned by the richest people. But why is that?

What are the most expensive yachts roaming the seas? And who are the people giving orders to their captains?

We are going to talk about all that and much more. But first, let’s take a look back at how yachts have evolved to the status symbol they are today.


Those who are not passionate about sea travel can breathe a sigh of relief. Expensive yachts are not the kind you take to regattas and race around making full use of their swift design and impressive sails. Expensive yachts are not sailboats, they are beautifully crafted art forms that enchant even the most extravagant beholder.

Some say yachts are the private planes of the sea or the custom Rolls Royces of the waves. Designer jewels that are made to the custom specifications of their owners. And, as with all of those you can tell an expensive yacht when you see one. A boat that has no other purpose than the pleasure and comfort of its owner.

The yacht is a 14th-century Dutch invention. And it should come as no surprise that the Dutch were nearing the height of their financial, political and military power at the time. Rich merchants and ship owners began building small and fat "jaghts" and used them to sail ahead of their incoming trade ships, to celebrate their return.

In time, these boats spread to England where the first yacht race was recorded in 1661. With the advent of the steam engine, yachts began to have dual sail and motor propulsion. One thing that did not change was the profile of the owner. Yachts remained the playground of kings and super-rich. Beginning with the roaring 20’s, yachts became commissioned more and more and gas-powered alternatives began making waves. The nouveau riche of the US was leading the way in exhibiting their new toys. Yachting was turning into an industry of its own. But one that only recouped after the second world war and exploded after the fall of the Berlin wall.

During the last 30 years, luxury yachts have became the norm. As of 2016, there were about 10,000 yachts over 24 meters in length, worldwide. Of these, about 80% were power yachts. The annual production rate was reported to be around 150. As of 2019, there are over 1,800 businesses connected with building luxury power yachts, and the top powered yachts are faster and longer than their sail counterparts.

So which are the most expensive yachts in the world?


AZZAM - 180 METERS (590 FT)

This ship is currently the world's biggest private motor yacht. Although it did take some three years to complete, the Azzam is a marvel of engineering and luxury. A marvel with a missile defense system, that can reach speeds of more than 31 knots. Commissioned by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, this yacht has a total output of 94.000 hp. That turns it into a high speed, highly maneuverable beast.

It was built by Lürssen Yachts with exterior design by Nauta and interior design by French designer Christophe Leoni. All at an estimated cost of more than $ 600 million. And that was not all spent on missile defense systems. Although no interior photos have been made available, the boat is rumored to have a 6,000-square-foot lounge, up to 50 suites, and a 95-foot salon. Not bad for what is probably the fastest yacht over 300 ft.

Although the Azzam could soon lose its place as the biggest luxury yacht in the world. Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke is funding the build of the REV Ocean. The world’s largest yacht of any kind. The boat was launched in Romania this year but it is still undergoing fitting and it is said it will be fully operational within two years.


THE ECLIPSE -163.50 M (536 FT)

This ship is the property of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. And held the record for the biggest power yacht for some time. Apart from being very luxurious, the Eclipse is the biggest ship that uses a rotor based stabilization system. All to make sure that the owner, or guests, don’t get seasick and that they benefit from the smoothest ride possible, whether the anchor is dropped or raised. And comfort is one of the strong points of the Eclipse.

On a ship that has two helipads, the designers managed to squeeze in a submarine, three launch boats, 24 cabins for the guests, two swimming pools, a party hall, and several hot tubs. And that is not all. This behemoth has a crew of 70 and it is longer than a Burke-class Destroyer. Yes, the ship that can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, amongst others.

The Eclipse is officially registered as a charter yacht although prices are not available. Most likely the registration was only made to conform with property taxes that exempt charter yachts. Our number one on the list, Azza, has the same kind of registration. As do most of the yachts on our list.

But Abramovich did fit his yacht with something not all other yachts have. The master bedroom is not only as luxurious as one can get but is also fitted with bulletproof windows and anti-paparazzi laser light systems. Because when you pay $340 million for a beautiful yacht, privacy should not be an issue.


DUBAI - 162 M (531 FT)

This is another beautiful example of yacht design. And not just because of its size. Dubai can fit a total of 115 people, including the crew guests and staff.

The yacht was designed by Andrew Winch and Blohm & Voss. It has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure, consisting of 7 accommodation decks. The interior layout and design were completed by Platinum Yachts’ Interior Design and Decoration office. The arrangement provides great variety, giving the owner a luxuary array of guest accommodations, dining options, outdoor areas with swimming pool, multiple Jacuzzi installations, barbecue area and much more. Besides multiple dining areas, saloons, guest and VIP suites, other notable features onboard the Dubai include two owner’s suites on the sixth and seventh decks and two observation rooms on the top decks.

Dubai is owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and the total cost for this beautiful example of freedom and privacy is said to top $400 million. The project was initially started at the order of Prince Jefrei of Brunei, and later the hull was acquired by Platinum Yachts who finished it and delivered it to the Sheikh.


DILBAR - 156 M (512 FT)

The largest yacht in the world by volume, Dilbar, has an estimated price tag of around $600 million. It can take 40 guests, in 20 cabins, and has can accommodate 80 crew in 35 cabins, as well. Which is a lot, even in terms of the gigantic very expensive yachts. It is powered by the largest power plant fitted on a yacht and houses the largest swimming pool at 180 cubic meters.

The ship's owner, Alisher Usmanov, bought an actual docking space for it in Antibes, France. No other boats can dock there without the permission of Alisher. And seeing that, at 156m, Dilbar is a hefty boy, that is the biggest parking space in the world and probably the most expensive.

The world’s largest yacht by gross tonnage at 15,917 tons (over 31 million pounds) Dilbar is a fitting build for a Russian billionaire. This luxury yacht has two helipads, a large indoor swimming pool, and 3,800 square meters of living space for endless fun.

Dilbar is not the longest ship in the water, but its sheer volume brings it closer to a small cruise ship than to a yacht.

The MOST EXPENSIVE YACHTS in the world the rising sun

THE RISING SUN - 138 M (453 FT)

Rising Sun is a motor yacht designed by Jon Bannenberg and built by Germany's Lürssen, for Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation. The boat was last refitted in 2007 and has been seen around the world since then.

Lürssen is one of the biggest manufacturers of luxury yachts and one of the best in the world. They are the same shipyard that built Azzam, Dilbar, Topaz and numerous other luxury yachts.

Rising Sun has been owned since 2010 by David Geffen, who had bought a half share of the yacht initially in late 2006. And it is one of the most visited by celebrities. It has entertained among others, the Obamas, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks. All of them were guests of the media mogul that owns the 12th largest yacht in the world. With a length of almost 138 meters (453 ft), the 454-foot yacht comes with a basketball court, can accommodate up to 18 guests and is valued at over US$580 million.

If you want to know exactly how luxurious and well designed this yacht is, it helps to understand that John Bannenberg is one of the designers that worked on the interiors of Queen Elizabeth 2, as well as on the design of luxury yachts such as Limitless and Kingdom 5KR.

There are plenty of yachts in the sea. And if you are wondering why the richest people in the world don't all own one, the answer is simple. Not everybody likes to sail, and not all people want to devote time to the problems that luxury yachts bring with them.

Even Jeff Bezos denied having bought the $400 million, Flying Fox.

And he is not the kind of guy who you would suspect to be shy of the costs, or being very careful when it comes to his public image.

The reality is that owning a yacht is not synonymous with good press anymore and that the costs of running one amount to somewhere in the vicinity of 1% per year.

And if you add the fact that you can always charter one, you end up with the idea that having a luxury yacht commissioned is perhaps vulgar and just bad business.

Luckily for yacht enthusiasts and sailing aficionados, there will always be someone that loves awesome ships and great luxury enough to order the next wonder of the seas.

And that is great because luxury yachts are the magnificent and iconic pieces of nautical art that the world needs.


The Most Expensive Yachts In The World Why Don't The Richest People Own Them

By Steve White 7 Nov 2019