Billionaires: Jeff Bezos takes his $500 million superyacht for a test run

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s super wealthy, Mukesh Ambani builds on record cricket views with new offerings and Winklevoss twins lend $100 million to their Gemini crypto platform

Previously known as Y721, the ship is now registered as Koru and is flying under a Cayman Islands flag. EPA
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Jeff Bezos

Billionaire Jeff Bezos should have his new superyacht in time for the summer.

On Wednesday, the 417-foot (127-metre) Koru left a shipyard in the Netherlands and anchored off the coast of Spain near Mallorca, where it’s undergoing tests.

The Koru’s excursion is part of the sea trials where an owner puts the boat through its paces to make sure everything is working properly, according to a person familiar with its travels, who requested anonymity discussing private matters. It could return to the shipyard for final tweaks before being delivered.

The three-mast superyacht is estimated to have cost the Amazon founder more than $500 million.

Mr Bezos, 59, is the world’s third-richest person with a fortune of $126.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Jeff Bezos's $500m superyacht — in pictures

Previously known as Y721, the ship is now registered as Koru and is flying under a Cayman Islands flag. It’s the largest sailing yacht afloat, according to Boat International, and one of the biggest to be built by Netherlands-based Oceanco.

An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment.

The superyacht’s size has caused a number of headaches for Mr Bezos and its builders. The height of its masts was originally going to force the city of Rotterdam to dismantle historic steel bridge De Hef for the boat to be able to make it to the ocean.

City officials initially agreed to temporarily take apart the bridge’s central section, but Oceanco ended up retracting the request amid public outcry. The shipbuilder eventually towed the vessel out to sea without its masts.

The size of the sails also meant that the yacht couldn’t have a helipad on board. Instead, Mr Bezos and his helicopter pilot partner Lauren Sanchez will rely on a support boat, which is currently crossing the Atlantic with a destination of Gibraltar, according to vessel-tracking data.

Mukesh Ambani

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s streaming service will add more than 100 films and TV series to its platform, building on the popularity of its cricket broadcasts in its push to take on global giants such as Walt Disney and Netflix in the fast-growing Indian market.

The expansion will coincide with JioCinema starting to charge for content, though the exact pricing strategy is still being finalised, media and content business president Jyoti Deshpande said in an interview.

New titles will be introduced before the end of the Indian Premier League cricket next month, and viewers will still be able to watch matches for free until then, she said.

Mr Ambani’s sprawling conglomerate has aspirations to become a global media and online streaming behemoth.

Last year, Viacom18 Media, a joint venture between Paramount Global and the billionaire’s Reliance Industries, outbid Disney and Sony Group to clinch the digital rights to IPL — one of the world’s fastest-growing sports events that’s seen as a critical way for any media company to lure eyeballs in India.

The potential viewership in India, home to 1.4 billion people and with a growing middle class and expanding internet access, is immense.

JioCinema drew more than 1.47 billion video views during the opening weekend of the IPL in April, and had 22 million viewers for a match on Wednesday.

It remains a market that’s been hard to crack for global streaming platform giants: Netflix has cut its fees to lure price-conscious users, while a robust local cinema-going culture means Indian viewers can be picky in what they’ll watch online.

Both price and content are at the front of mind in JioCinema’s expansion, said Ms Deshpande.

The plan is to “keep tariffs simple for viewers”, she said.

Currently, the streaming space “is dominated by westernised content. Jio Studios wants to become a catalyst for cross pollination of talent. We want to get as Indian as it can,” she added.

That includes rolling out films and series from thrillers and romance to biopics in languages including Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss

Billionaires Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have dipped into their own pockets to support their crypto exchange Gemini Trust, which has faced numerous setbacks during the year-long market downturn for digital assets.

The twins made a $100 million loan to Gemini recently, according to two people familiar with the matter, who did not wish to be identified discussing private information.

The move came after Gemini had informally sought funding from outside investors in recent months without coming to any agreements, according to three people.

Gemini and the Winklevoss twins didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Venture funding for crypto start-ups has cratered following the collapse of crypto exchange FTX and slowdowns in the tech and crypto industries, plummeting 80 per cent to $2.4 billion in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to data from research firm PitchBook.

Gemini has experienced its own troubles during the crypto bear market, a sharp contrast to when it raised $400 million at a valuation of $7.1 billion in November 2021.

Fallout from the implosion of FTX led to the bankruptcy of crypto lender Genesis Global Holdco, severely bruising Gemini in the process.

Genesis Global had been Gemini’s sole partner on its Gemini Earn lending product and when Genesis froze withdrawals in November, that forced Gemini to pause redemptions on Earn accounts.

The move left $900 million of customer money in limbo and sparked a heated spat between the Winklevoss twins and Barry Silbert, chief executive of Digital Currency Group, the parent company of Genesis.

In February, the two parties reached an agreement in principle to resolve the dispute, under which Gemini would kick in as much as $100 million.

The Winklevoss loan won’t go towards that, but rather to fund operations, one person familiar with the matter said.

David and Simon Reuben

David and Simon Reuben are exploring ways to finalise one of Los Angeles’s biggest real estate projects after taking control over major parts of the $2.5 billion plan through debt financing deals.

The British billionaire brothers are in talks over a revised repayment plan with the US property developer behind the Century Plaza site after it defaulted on loans during the pandemic, according to a statement from the Reubens’ namesake company.

The project, which includes a five-star hotel as well as retail stores and residential units, is almost complete.

Reuben Brothers is now “engaged in discussions on a forbearance agreement with the borrower, Next Century Partners, controlled by Michael Rosenfeld, to ensure the project will move forward”, their company said, without disclosing financial terms.

With the funding and development secured, Century Plaza can cement itself as a premier luxury residential complex in the center of Los Angeles
Reuben Brothers

“With the funding and development secured, Century Plaza can cement itself as a premier luxury residential complex in the centre of Los Angeles.”

Representatives for Next Century Partners didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The situation underscores the risks many real estate companies worldwide face as higher interest rates to curb surging inflation lead to more defaults.

Money managers have recently stepped up their bearish bets against office landlords: Warren Buffett has warned there will be problems for banks in the commercial property sector, while investor Kyle Bass went as far as saying skyscrapers will need to be demolished.

The Reubens control one of the world’s biggest portfolios of retail, office and residential properties. Sons of Iraqi Jews, they were born in India and moved to London as teenagers.

They built a fortune trading metals and later invested in real estate, leisure and technology companies. David, 84, and Simon, 81, have a combined net worth of $13.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Updated: April 24, 2023, 5:35 AM