Flaunting the ultimate gin palace

By Paul Lewis

The 88m mega-yacht Musashi has a crew of 23 and has room for 18 guests.
The 88m mega-yacht Musashi has a crew of 23 and has room for 18 guests.

It sits in front of the America's Cup media centre - all 88m of it, seemingly saying: "I'm the fifth richest man in the world... and you're not."

Larry Ellison's super yacht Musashi isn't the only floating temple of wealth tied up at the America's Cup Park - but it dwarfs the others. It's not as big as his previous yacht. The Rising Sun is 138m long and the eighth biggest in the world, though Ellison sold it on (reportedly for a mere US$300 million) before building the Musashi from new with renowned Dutch super yacht builders Feadship recently.

It's not known what it cost but, as a guide the Venus, the super yacht posthumously finished for Apple supremo Steve Jobs, was built by the same company.

It is 78m long and cost US$125 million ($158 million) though in purely aesthetic terms, it looks like it was thrown together using thousands of iPads as cladding.

Musashi is an entirely regal vessel of far more classical design. It looks like the Hilton in Auckland, only bigger, and seems to have as many and even bigger windows.

It has room for 18 guests (and 23 crew) in cabins with oversize beds, 65-inch LCD televisions and vast luxury; it has a cinema complete with double loungers, plus a sauna, gym and spa; two motor launches for more nimble fun should you tire of Musashi's 15,000 horsepower four-prop ride; and fit-for-a-king luxury appointments in the dining and lounge areas.

Of course, Ellison isn't really taunting the world's impoverished journalists by tying up the Musashi outside the media centre.

This is the US, where wealth is celebrated, rather than tall-poppy-syndrome New Zealand.

It may seem an ostentatious display of wealth to Kiwis - some of whom regard wealth as suspicious - but for that you probably have to look at another Ellison acquisition: he bought 36sq km of a Hawaiian island last year.

Lanai (pronounced La-nai-ee) is now 98 per cent Ellison's (old families and the government own the other 2 per cent ), including homes and apartments, one of two grocery stores, two Four Seasons hotels and golf courses, the community centre and pool, water company, cinema, the roads and 36,000ha. That cost US$300 million.

Then Ellison, hearing the tiny airline Island Air was about to go out of business, bought that (and saved 250 jobs as well as access to the island).

That is the formidable wealth and force behind Oracle Team USA - holders and Emirates Team New Zealand's chief rivals in the 34th America's Cup.

Musashi (apparently named after a famous samurai warrior whose name has come to mean power and grace) cost close to US$200 million - purportedly the amount Oracle has sunk into their defence of the Cup. So that's pretty much the entire defence budget bobbing up and down outside the media centre.

It makes the $36 million the government put into Team NZ's Cup campaign seem like a bowl of frosted peanuts, really.

But if you are wondering how Ellison affords Musashi and Lanai, he's not only the fifth richest guy on the planet with US$40 billion, he also voted himself a US$96 million pay rise last month. So, one more year of not buying Hawaii and he'll have the boat paid off ...

- NZ Herald

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