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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper
Superyachts and the Super Rich. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 28, 2024 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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CAMEROTA: This kind of superyacht. We'll show you the different sizes but on board it seems no expense is spared. We saw mosaics made of Italian leather. A working spa complete with a hair and nail salon, and massage rooms. Dive centers with walls that open on to the ocean. Wooden flooring made from a 16th Century monastery. Glass encased pools to swim laps. And a swimming pool in a bedroom ceiling.
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ACOSTA: All right. We are all jealous of Alisyn Camerota right now.
An all-new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER" airs next right here on CNN.
Thanks very much for joining me this evening. I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here next weekend. Have a good night.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE WHOLE STORY. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Tonight, we take you into a world that few people get to see up close. The world of superyachts. Private boats, some of them longer than a football field. They can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it seems there's plenty of buyers. Since the pandemic, more people than ever are building and buying them. Business is reportedly booming. They've become status symbols for the superrich and striking symbols of the economic inequality.
Their impact on the environment and the oceans is a topic of debate. The U.S. has seized some superyachts of Russia's elite and now your tax dollars are surprisingly being spent to keep their ships in tip- top shape.
CNN's Alisyn Camerota takes us inside this hidden world of superyachts and her first stop at the Monaco Yacht Show.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Monaco. Land of the ultra-wealthy. And dotting the harbor like crown jewels are some of the world's largest superyachts. Bonjour.
(Voice-over): That's no surprise considering this is the richest country in the world per capita. People here don't pay income tax, which as you can imagine, attracts millionaires and billionaires from all over the globe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A picture queen who will become a princess greets her new subjects.
CAMEROTA: From the moment the American actress Grace Kelly sailed into Port Hercules to marry Prince Rainer III --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Princess carrying her poodle Oliver arrives with her husband to board their yacht.
CAMEROTA: We've been fascinated by the yachting life. From the TV show, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," that glamourized wealth and decadence decades ago, to today's popular reality show, Bravo's "Below Deck," to social feeds of celebrities lounging on yachts like Beyonce's photos on Instagram. We seem to have an almost primal fascination with rich people and how they spend their money.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Obamas aboard David Geffen's yacht vacationing with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey.
CAMEROTA: These boats look very nice.
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: These are yachts.
CAMEROTA: These are yachts.
OSNOS: And I think a lot of people would look at these and say these are pretty big.
CAMEROTA: Yes. They're beautiful.
OSNOS: Until you see the bigness.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): CNN contributor Evan Osnos is also a staff writer at "the New Yorker" magazine who scored the plum assignment of researching superyachts.
OSNOS: What can be important to keep in mind is none of this existed a few years ago.
CAMEROTA: His 2022 "New Yorker" article on the super wealthy's obsession with superyachts created some waves in the industry.
OSNOS: It becomes in some ways the final frontier of wealth. The emblem of what you buy when there's nothing else left to buy.
CAMEROTA: They are a higher caliber of wealth than even a beautiful penthouse apartment. A private plane. That's all chump change compared to these. OSNOS: I mean, in the end, expensive art is perhaps $200 million for a
Warhol. The most expensive apartment ever sold in New York City was $240 million. In yacht terms, that's pretty ordinary money.
Actually, these things can become $300 million, $400 million, $500 million. A gigayacht in the end is the most expensive thing that humans have figured out how to own.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Gigayachts are the largest kind of superyacht. We'll show you the different sizes in a bit, but on board, it seems no expense is spared. We saw mosaics made of Italian leather. A working spa complete with a hair and nail salon and massage rooms. Dive centers with walls that open on to the ocean. Wooden flooring made from a 16th Century monastery. Glass-encased pools to swim laps. And a swimming pool in a bedroom ceiling.
STEWART CAMPBELL, BOAT INTERNATIONAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: This is really the center of the superyachting universe in Monaco at this time of year. So if you're in the market for a big yacht, this is the place to come.
CAMEROTA: This is where we see the biggest superyachts.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Sure, Monaco hosts the Formula One Grand Prix every spring, but this annual weeklong yachting event is called one of the greatest concentrations of wealth in the world.
CHUCK ASHMAN, MARINEMAX CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER: It is a bucket list place to be if you're in the industry, if you're shopping for a yacht and a big yacht. Not a small yacht. This is it. This is the Super Bowl. This is the World Cup Final.
CAMEROTA: Strolling along the piers of the Monaco Yacht Show, one thing becomes crystal clear. Size does indeed matter.
OSNOS: LOA. That's the coin (INAUDIBLE). Stands for length overall. And look, on some level, yes, this is about people, mostly men, buying giant yachts and competing with one another.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Call it BYE. Big yacht energy. And it fuels a $10 billion a year industry. Bernard d'Alessandri has been secretary- general of the Monaco Yacht Club for over four decades.
And tell us about the changes that you've seen?
BERNARD D'ALESSANDRI, SECRETARY-GENERAL, MONACO YACHT CLUB: The size of the boats increase every year.
CAMEROTA: Are you seeing people want bigger boats? More length? MASSIMO PEROTTI, SANLORENZO EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN: Always. Always. And
every time they change the boat, they grow approximately 40 percent of the size and the value of the boat.
CAMEROTA: Why is that? What can they not get on an 80-foot yacht that they want to upgrade?
PEROTTI: First of all, life change. You know, family. Grow. Or maybe you change. You change wife. And you have a new life. You make more money and then you like to have a bigger boat.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): As we learned, not all yachts are created equal.
Tell me about the distinctions between superyacht, megayacht and gigayacht.
CAMPBELL: Well, superyacht is anything over 24 meters, length overall, the LOA. The rules maintain that you need crew and a crewed boat over 24 meters means it's a superyacht.
CAMEROTA: So that's like 78 feet for the American.
CAMPBELL: That's right.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Let me do the math. A superyacht is at least 78 feet long and has a full-time crew. The larger you go, the looser the terms, but at 230 feet, it's generally called a megayacht. Above 295 feet, most people will call it a gigayacht.
Later, we'll give you a glimpse inside the queen of the Monaco Yacht Show, one of the largest gigayachts in the world at 318 feet. Just for reference, an NFL football field from one goal line to the other is only 300 feet. So how many passengers can you take on a huge, floating football field? Generally only 12.
OSNOS: This surprises people outside of the industry. The law is written in a curious way. Goes all the way back to the sinking of the Titanic. They imposed rules that said that you can only have on most yachts 12 people spend the night.
CAMEROTA: Not to get too technical, but in the wake of the 1912 Titanic disaster, stricter safety rules were put in place for commercial passenger ships, including having lifeboats or rafts for 125 percent of the passengers and crew, but those maritime rules are much looser for private pleasure crafts with 12 passengers or less and that's the category for most yachts.
OSNOS: But there's no limit on the number of crew. So as a result, you might have a yacht that has 12 guests and up to 50 people who are working on the boat, attending to them.
CAMEROTA: Devon Janse van Rensburg is the captain of the Virtuosity.
I'm so excited.
DEVON JANSE VAN RENSBURG, VIRTUOSITY CAPTAIN: Please remove your shoes.
CAMEROTA: And does everybody have to remove their shoes?
VAN RENSBURG: Everyone removes their shoes.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): He helms one of the newest superyachts from the Italian shipbuilder Sanlorenzo at 187 feet.
How many crew for 12 guests?
VAN RENSBURG: On board Virtuosity, we have 12 but boats of this size can accommodate up to 20 crew.
CAMEROTA: 20 crew for 12 guests.
VAN RENSBURG: Correct.
CAMEROTA: People can be doted on in their every wish is your command?
VAN RENSBURG: Some people like fresh strawberries in the mornings and we might sit in the middle of nowhere to anchor. Strawberries will come by a helicopter. On board Virtuosity, we can make the impossible possible within hours but a miracle takes me at least a day.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): To truly understand what that level of service and luxury feels like.
VAN RENSBURG: This is the crew.
CAMEROTA: Sanlorenzo invited me to spend one glorious night aboard the Virtuosity. It was a tough assignment, but I accepted it.
Yes, this doesn't suck.
(Voice-over): The Virtuosity spent the summer in the Mediterranean, or the Med, as they call it here. The Canadian owners have opened her up for charter. After the Monaco Yacht Show, she'll head to the Caribbean for the winter. In the meantime, the captain gave us a tour.
This is beautiful. The staircase.
VAN RENSBURG: Yes, the staircase is also one of the show pieces that I'm very proud of onboard Virtuosity.
CAMEROTA: I can see why. How many floors is this?
VAN RENSBURG: We have three.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): This yacht has everything from a disco.
VAN RENSBURG: Sway the music after.
CAMEROTA: To the bridge.
Oh, my god.
(Voice-over): To the upper salon where guests hang out on rainy days. To the sunbathing area/helicopter deck. And of course, the swimming pool. In the spirit of reporting, I had to try them all.
VAN RENSBURG: This is where you'll be staying tonight. Welcome to the owner's cabin.
CAMEROTA: The owner's cabin. Oh, my heavens. Look at this. I'm getting used to this. It's worrying me. How comfortable I'm getting here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So for our first class, we have ceviche of sea bass.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Dinner on superyachts is just as delicious and extravagant as you'd imagine. The Virtuosity comes with gourmet level cuisine which definitely stretched our CNN per diem budgets. But don't be fooled by the peaceful ambiance. A lot of work is being done a few decks below.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem. Tell me what I need to serve today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some caviar.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Caviar? OK.
CAMEROTA: Just a taste of the meticulous round-the-clock, white glove service yacht crews are expected to provide to guests on board.
What are some of the most extravagant food requests you've gotten?
LOWIE VANDEPUTE, CHEF: Oh, I got a good one. Bolognese sauce, they wanted only made with Kobe A5 beef.
CAMEROTA: And that's not cheap.
VANDEPUTE: Around five grand just for the sauce for 10 people.
CAMEROTA: My god.
(Voice-over): If it's $5,000 for special pasta sauce, how much does it cost to charter a whole superyacht?
VAN RENSBURG: We'll run at about $400,000 to $500,000 per week.
CAMEROTA: $400,000 to $500,000 to charter this boat for a week.
VAN RENSBURG: Correct.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): And that's just for the yacht. Not included, travel to the boat's location, food and drink, fuel, and gratuities for the crew.
Give me the archetype of the type of people who are chartering it.
VAN RENSBURG: People who are serious about their holidays. (LAUGHTER)
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Coming up, waking up on a superyacht. And an inside look at one of the world's largest gigayachts.
CAMPBELL: No one's really seen it. Very secretive for a very, very long time.
CAMEROTA: And the undeniable environmental impact.
There's no way around it. These are gas guzzlers.
(Voice-over): And later, the unexpected cost of seizing the superyachts of Russian oligarchs.
Once the U.S. seizes it they have to maintain it and spend a lot of taxpayer money.
CAMEROTA: Stunning sunrise. Tranquility.
(Voice-over): It turns out waking up on a superyacht in Monaco is, well, just as incredible as you might imagine.
Morning. Thank you.
(Voice-over): Times a hundred. But it's time for us to get back to work.
PEROTTI: The beauty is to go inside of Portofino, Saint Tropez, Capri.
CAMEROTA: Massimo Perotti is the executive chairman of Italian based ship builder Sanlorenzo. They had several vessels on display at the Monaco Yacht Show including the Virtuosity.
PEROTTI: If we show to the people how good is boating, you know, if we can increase from 3 percent to 4 percent the rate of penetration to the super rich, that means 25 percent more business, which is huge.
CAMEROTA: Of course this luxury does not come cheap. Never mind chartering or even owning one of these megamillion dollar vessels, even the cost of maintenance is eye-popping.
ASHMAN: We tell people assume 10 percent of the cost of the yacht as an annual maintenance on it.
CAMEROTA: Chuck Ashman is the chief revenue officer of MarineMax, the world's largest retailer of recreational boats. Fraser is their premium yacht brand.
ASHMAN: If the yacht was $10 million, it's probably going to cost you a million dollars a year. CAMEROTA: Despite those bottomless costs, business is still booming
for superyachts. It started with the pandemic when people wanted to get away from their possibly infectious neighbors and set sail. 2020 and 2021 saw record-high sales on superyachts for the superrich, but it turns out that boom carries a big cost for the rest of us as well.
OSNOS: The best estimates are that one big diesel yacht will generate as much greenhouse gas as 1500 passenger cars over the equivalent period of time.
CAMEROTA: That kind of environmental impact has put a big target on their sundecks.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Spanish climate activists posted videos of themselves vandalizing a superyacht, activists holding a banner in front of a $300 million ship where they spray it with red and black paint. The yacht reportedly belongs to billionaire Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie.
CAMEROTA: Then there's Jeff Bezos, one of the world's richest men and philanthropists.
JEFF BEZOS, BILLIONAIRE, PHILANTHROPIST: The Bezos Earth Fund's $10 billion commitment to fight climate change.
CAMEROTA: He's built the world's largest sailing yacht, the Koru. Undoubtedly a gigayacht. But don't be fooled by this sailboat's air of environmental consciousness.
KEVIN KOENIG, YACHT INDUSTRY JOURNALIST: Koru is trailed behind by Abeona, a 246-foot motor yacht that has a 70,000-gallon tank. A boat Koru size of 417 feet typically would have at least one helicopter landing pad, but because Koru is a sailing boat, they can't land a helicopter on that. So the fact that she's a sailboat and that she was greener than most megayachts actually necessitated the existence of Abeona because Jeff likes his helicopters and Lauren Sanchez, his fiance, is a licensed pilot.
CAMEROTA: Jeff Bezos declined to comment for this CNN documentary.
OSNOS: It's a symbol of something deeper which is that it tends to be that wealthier people have a larger carbon footprint because of houses, the jet, the cars and the yacht becomes the most visible expression of that.
CAMEROTA: The industry is aware of the bad optics of their gas- guzzling ways. The proof was in the buzz word we kept hearing over and over again in Monaco.
GEORGINA MENHENEOTT, BURGESS: Sustainability.
VAN RENSBURG: Sustainability.
CLAIRE BROOKE, BLUE MARINE FOUNDATION: We're at a very interesting time in ocean conservation.
CAMEROTA: Claire Brooke heads the Blue Marine Foundation. A charity dedicated to securing at least 30 percent of the world's oceans as marine protected by 2030.
Some of their efforts are showcased in this video narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, BRITISH BROADCASTER AND BIOLOGIST: The kelp from lock up vast amounts of carbon as they grow.
CAMEROTA: While the superyacht industry struggles to make its public image greener, some companies give money to environmental organizations doing the work.
MENHENEOTT: Every time we transact any business, we donate to ocean conservation with Blue Marine Foundation, and ask our clients, and then it's the question of them saying, yes, I'll donate, you know, a half a percent or a percentage of my trusty fee directly to ocean conservation.
CAMEROTA: It's sort of like being asked for a donation of a few cents at the grocery store checkout line but the luxury yacht brokerage Burgess believes even little green gestures can add up.
MENHENEOTT: All the flowers on the Burgess at the moment should last up to a year. They are real flowers. They are beautiful flowers.
CAMEROTA: How do they last a year?
MENHENEOTT: They are preserved biologically with natural oils. So if you're able to keep the same arrangements for a year or, you know, even six months per season, it's a small thing, but all those one percenters will make a sea change.
CAMEROTA: We've heard about flowers. They're going to try to make -- why is that funny?
MALCOLM JACOTINE, SUSTAINABILITY ADVOCATE AND FORMER SUPERYACHT CAPTAIN: Not to put too fine a point on it, but, you know, when you look at the scale of the problem, you know, some more sustainable materials or fake flowers are a little bit like putting lipstick on a pig. They hardly scratch the surface. So we've got a massive job to do in terms of reducing our CO2 emissions.
RAPHAEL SAULEAU, THE INTERNATIONAL YACHT COMPANY CEO: Our industry needs to be extremely cautious when we communicate about sustainability in yachting. It will never be 100 percent green.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): And certainly a yacht like this will never be considered eco-friendly.
CAMPBELL: Currently a seventh, a 97-meter boat built in Germany by Lurssen. A very, very famous superyacht. No one's really seen it, very secretary for a very, very long time. CAMEROTA: It's very funny that you say she's been quite secretive
because it's such a paradox for something this, you know, ginormous to be secretive.
CAMPBELL: Yes, it is a strange combo.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Built in 2002 and refit by a new owner in 2023, the Corinthia 7 is the queen of the Monaco Yacht Show. Remember, that's the gigayacht that is larger than a football field from one goal post to the other. One of the biggest in the world. But even on a ship this size, you can still only have 12 overnight guests. That can be stretched to five more with people called super numeraries like security, a nanny, a teacher or a helicopter pilot. But the number of crew is virtually unlimited. This will run you around $1.6 million a week to charter.
DAVID SEAL, "YACHT FOR SALE" YOUTUBE HOST: You know the emoji where your brain explodes? That's the effect it had.
CAMEROTA: David Seal is a former broker turned YouTuber who shows the rest of us land lovers the inside of these gigayachts on his channel, Yachts for Sale.
SEAL: The buyers now are more intelligent buyers.
CAMEROTA: What does that mean?
SEAL: At one time, you could pay for a supermodel to pat her lips on a yacht with a big hat and sell the yacht. Not anymore. That doesn't sell anymore. It's getting a little bit boring. So now people, they actually want to know how fast does it go, how far does it go is the big question.
CAMEROTA: How far can it go on a tank of gas?
SEAL: That's right.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): But the folks at the yacht show say we're thinking about this all wrong. This may giant gas guzzlers, but they're also huge job creators.
CAMPBELL: This is a really brilliant way we have devised, we're extracting a lot of wealth from rich people and redistribute it to get to an awful lot of other people.
CAMEROTA: How so?
CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, to build one of these things cost some of the bigger ones hundreds of millions of euros or dollars.
GIOVANNA VITELLI, AZIMUT -BENETTI GROUP CHAIRWOMAN: Behind these objects, there is a whole world of families, of workers, of designers, which make this happen.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): It's the trickle-down theory of yacht ownership. CAMPBELL: These boats require constant and relentless servicing and
CAMEROTA: From those tireless crews endlessly swabbing and polishing, to the tenders which are small boats that ferry passengers to land from their superyachts anchored at sea. To the shipbuilders and designers. To the highly skilled craftsmen. To the yacht brokers, to the yacht industry media.
SEAL: Find a yacht is often referred to as a purchase of passion.
CAMEROTA: There's a lot of people making boat loads of money from superyachts.
CAMPBELL: So rather than people seeing these things as just the toy of some, you know, billionaire X, they are actually mini floating economies and wherever they go, they absolutely firehose money into local economies and populations.
CAMEROTA: Up next.
Speaking of owners, we found them to be sort of camera shy.
(Voice-over): Our search to find a superyacht owner who will talk to us.
Does somebody need a 250-foot yacht?
CAMEROTA: At the 2023 Monaco Yacht Show, 117 superyachts were on display. With every toy and accessory imaginable.
EDDIE JORDAN, FORMER RACE CAR DRIVER, YACHT OWNER: Take two. Come on.
CAMEROTA: You don't have to be in Monaco long to cross paths with this colorful character, Eddie Jordan. A former race car driver, Formula One team owner. Current drummer in a rock band. TV personality and owner of roughly 20 yachts over several decades.
JORDAN: I'm a druggie. I've got the needle in the arm for boats.
CAMEROTA: But even this self-described yacht junkie thinks we may have reached the tipping point and that the size of these floating buildings may be going overboard.
What do you think when you see all of the 200-foot yachts and all of the megayachts and gigayachts?
JORDAN: For me personally I don't get it. They leave me cold.
JORDAN: Because they're too ostentatious. I think it's very much a here I am, this is what I've done. I've been made successful and this is my boat.
CAMEROTA: Why does somebody need a 175-foot or 200-foot yacht?
JORDAN: I'm not even sure about that. The maximum size I had was 150- foot. But you know what the biggest problems was? Finding enough friends who had time available at the right time to join you because being on a big boat like that is very boring, very selfish and I'm not sure it's creating the right vibe for the staff, the crew or anybody.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): We tried to get present-day superyacht owners to talk to us about what makes it so addictive, but, oddly, no one agreed to go on camera.
OSNOS: The truth is nobody in that world pretends that it's a productive investment. The yacht, from the very moment it's created, is essentially in mortal combat with its own environment. The water is trying to rust it from below. The sea air is trying to turn this thing brown and sink it to the bottom of the ocean.
CAMEROTA: So it's a horrible investment.
OSNOS: It's a terrible investment. You're buying it partly because of the fact that it is utterly unnecessary. So if you're concerned about the amount of money you're spending, that right there probably disqualifies you at the outset.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Maybe that's why no owner would talk to us. Maybe they're embarrassed by the over-the-top extravagance of these things. Maybe that kind of talk is too gauche for Monaco. So we headed west. Some place with even more superyachts and maybe more accessible owners.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Home to the world's largest boat show.
What's the difference between the Monaco Yacht Show and the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show?
CAMPBELL: It's often harder to tell the American owner from a man on the street. You could see a guy walking along here at 9:00 in the morning with a can of beer and shorts. You know, he could be worth $500 million. We just don't know.
CAMEROTA: Stewart Campbell is the editor-in-chief at Boat International, a yachting industry media company.
CAMPBELL: America is the market for superyachts. Just half the market. The American super owner keeps this industry alive.
JOHN STALUPPI, OWNER, CASINO ROYAL YACHT: This, you can see, is my wife's doing. For me, you would have paper dishes. Plastic cups.
CAMEROTA: Right. STALUPPI: She has to have all this Versace silverware and all these
crazy dishes, and you know, everything's Versace with my wife.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Finally, we found one. 76-year-old American owner, John Staluppi, was happy to talk to us and give us the run of his megayacht. He bought it in early 2023 when she was named Solo. He refit and renamed her Casino Royale.
So, John, I know you're a big James Bond fan.
STALUPPI: We even got one in this elevator.
CAMEROTA: Look at this. Casino Royale.
(Voice-over): With his wife of 36 years, Jeanette, and their beloved dog, Buddy, Staluppi shared his story of yacht addiction.
How many yachts have you had?
STALUPPI: About 22.
CAMEROTA: You've had 22 yachts.
CAMEROTA: Why so many?
STALUPPI: You know, when you build a boat, you always forget something. I like a bigger bedroom. I like a fireplace. You know, so you always look to do something different.
JEANETTE, JOHN'S WIFE: He likes projects.
STALUPPI: When I was a kid, we used to buy this doll called Potato Head. You put different eyes and different clothes on it and stuff like that.
CAMEROTA: So basically a superyacht is just like Mr. Potato Head.
(Voice-over): But this toy costs $70 million used. And more than $4.5 million to maintain each year. The Staluppis only spend two to three months on it annually. But they do charter it out. For $800,000 a week plus food, drink, fuel, tips, et cetera.
So all in, is it a million dollars?
STALUPPI: Yes, it's probably a million dollars a week.
CAMEROTA: That's staggering.
STALUPPI: So when this boat goes on charter, we need a closet for our clothes.
(LAUGHTER) CAMEROTA: A floating closet. How big is that one?
STALUPPI: 110 feet.
CAMEROTA: You have another yacht over there, 110 feet?
CAMEROTA: It's your backup yacht?
STALUPPI: It's my backup boat. Then we're going to sell that boat.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Staluppi is a self-made man. Originally a mechanic from Brooklyn. He made his fortune with successful car dealerships like the one in this grand opening video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: April the 9th, 1988, the launching takes place of Octopus Inn.
CAMEROTA: In 1988, he also set the world record for creating the fastest yacht when he put three huge diesel engines in a 140-foot yacht and throttled it up. In this archival footage, you can see Staluppi setting his sights on his goal.
STALUPPI: I knew I could never afford to have the biggest yacht in the world, but I know I could have the fastest yacht in the world.
CAMEROTA: When you said the fastest yacht in the world, what does that mean?
STALUPPI: Well, I'm the first guy that went 53 knots with a boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 miles per hour, a new world record.
CAMEROTA: More and more people have superyachts now.
CAMEROTA: Is it harder to get in some places now?
STALUPPI: There's only a few marinas that could really handle us. Like when you go to Europe, if you're over 200 feet, you've got to anchor out because there's really not a lot of places to go. But, you know, these people 300 feet, 400 feet, you know, it's crazy.
CAMEROTA: I now. What's too big?
STALUPPI: I think 250 feet is too big.
CAMEROTA: Because yours is 243.
STALUPPI: Little bit lower.
CAMEROTA: But seriously, if some great places in the world won't let you in with a bigger than 200-foot boat, why have a bigger one?
STALUPPI: You know why they build a bigger house? Why do something? Is there a reason for it? No. I guess it's ego.
JEANETTE: His ego has gotten bigger and bigger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the saying goes, time stands still when you're under water.
CAMEROTA: Hi, Steve. Thank you for having us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you. Welcome aboard (INAUDIBLE).
CAMEROTA (voice-over): There's another benefit that American owners like Steve (INAUDIBLE) talked to us about.
Fantastic. Thank you.
(Voice-over): As corny as it may sound, they say they buy these ginormous boats for the intimacy they create for their families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having your family on the boat, they're sort of trapped with you so they can't get away from you.
CAMEROTA: At home your kids do try to escape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whereas here everybody hangs around and has a nice family conversation.
CAMEROTA: So this is where the kids sleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CAMPBELL: Steve's a brilliant American owner. He's into bigger boats. So Steve is perfect for our industry because he will just keep going and going and going.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) showed us around his latest superyacht and answered some of our pressing questions.
Steve, your yacht has a his and hers bathroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does with a shower in between. Room for two.
CAMEROTA: That's great. Is there any size that's too big?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Probably not.
CAMEROTA: Are you looking to upgrade at some point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Always looking to upgrade.
CAMEROTA: Does somebody need a 250-foot yacht? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably not. But, you know, there's a lot of
things that we have in life that we don't have to have. It's just a matter of enjoying the fruits of your labor.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Coming up, the seizure of Russian oligarchs' yachts.
CAMPBELL: Do the governments realize how much this is going to cost the taxpayer?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His administration planned to seize their ill- gotten gains and now the world is targeting the billionaires' extravagant yachts.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: German authorities seized the Dilbar. It is believed to be the world's biggest yacht. And it's the latest to be swept up in a global dragnet targeting the richest of Russian oligarchs. Russian oligarchs really seem to love their megayachts.
OSNOS: All of a sudden in the spring of 2022, yachts became a matter of geopolitical concern because you had the U.S. government and in cooperation with countries like Italy, Germany, Spain, they were beginning to freeze one yacht after another.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Italian authorities just seized a superyacht that may belong to Putin himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: British authorities have seized a superyacht.
CAMEROTA: At least 13 superyachts allegedly owned by Russian oligarchs have been seized or detained around the world since the invasion of Ukraine. In many cases, ownership and the right to sanction and seizure is playing out in each country's legal system as is the case with the Dilbar in Germany. As for the U.S., American authorities were directly involved in two of those seizures.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI boarded the $19 million yacht off the coast of Mayorca in Spain.
CAMEROTA: First in April 2022, the megayacht Tango.
COOPER: Western allies have seized a $90 million luxury yacht. Attorney General Merrick Garland said it will not be the last.
CAMEROTA: The next month, a 348-foot gigayacht seized in Fiji called the Amadea. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal officials sailed the $300 million yacht
into the bay this morning. The boat is big. It's four stories tall, nearly 350 feet long with its own pool and helipad. Its docking in San Diego comes after a more than 5,000-mile journey from Fiji.
CAMEROTA: Have you spent time on Russian yachts?
SEAL: I have. I have. Most of the real super wealthy Russian would have a chain of people you'd have to deal with before you could actually get to them.
OSNOS: In order to figure out who owns a yacht, in many cases, it's owned by a shell company in an offshore tax haven. There are lawyers and companies standing between the real owner and names on the page. These things now entered a kind of legal limbo. In the meantime, by the way, these boats are being maintained, strangely enough, by U.S. taxpayers. The law requires that these are maintained at the level at which they're received, meaning that it could cost tens of millions of dollars to keep these boats afloat.
CAMEROTA: That's right. American taxpayers are paying the upkeep on both yachts seized by the FBI. Including the Amadea. It's been sitting in a Southern California dock for more than a year and a half. According to court documents, it's reportedly costing taxpayers $1 million a month.
What happens if you just let it deteriorate?
CASHMAN: Well, at the end of it, maybe you're on that sanction list and undeservedly. Now you're going to say, well, you took my $100 million yacht and you let it rot at the dock for a year and now it's worth $50 million. Where's my compensation for that?
KOENIG: Some of them are up for sale but I've personally spoken to brokers who are dissuading their clients from buying them.
CAMEROTA: Kevin Koenig is a journalist who's been covering the yacht industry for 15 years, and blogs about it on his Instagram account, "The Yacht Fella."
KOENIG: The initial intention is seizing these yachts for the U.S. government and the U.K. and E.U., oh, we're going to sell them off at great profit. Pump that money into rebuilding Ukraine and the war effort there. U.S. government couldn't sell them.
CAMEROTA: So far, no nation has been able to finalize the sale of any seized superyachts for Ukraine's benefit or government coffers.
KOENIG: To my knowledge, these seizures did nothing to the oligarchs. These guys are worth $6 billion, $7 billion, $8 billion, $12 billion. And you take away the $300 million yacht, you know, so what? And a lot of them are keeping their boats in Turkey and UAE and friendly ports where they're untouched due to different political reasons.
CAMEROTA: But American authorities say these things take time. The DOJ's task force KleptoCapture runs the U.S. sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
MICHAEL KHOO, DOJ TASK FORCE KLEPTOCAPTURE CO-DIRECTOR: So it may be months or even a year or more before we finally see the fruits of this effort but we're fully committed to seeing it to the end. We do spend some money upfront to maintain these assets. That will pay off significant dividends down the line both in terms of what the U.S. government can recoup and also what the U.S. government can then make available for Ukraine.
DAVID LIM, DOJ TASK FORCE KLEPTOCAPTURE CO-DIRECTOR: We intend to prevail in court and see it through.
CAMEROTA: And some critics of the seizures claim that there are costs far beyond the financial.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN AL SHAALI, GULF CRAFT CHAIRMAN: Personally, I think nobody has the right to seize anybody's personal belonging. Whether that Russian or American or Japanese or Chinese.
CAMEROTA: Mohammed Hussein Al Shaali is a former Emirati diplomat. He's now chairman of Gulf Craft, a yacht builder based in the United Arab Emirates.
AL SHAALI: The principle of taking somebody else's personal belonging it's not good for relation between people and governments and countries.
OSNOS: The big yacht broker said to me, look, what happens someday if there's a war over Taiwan? Will China look at American yacht owners and say, all right, we're going to start seizing these where we can? It creates a tremendous amount of nervousness.
CAMEROTA: Up next, the future of superyachts.
You can dive right off the side of the yacht.
CAMEROTA: So, Captain, what is this?
CAPT. ALEX ASLOU, ATOMIC SUPERYACHT: This is our very own dive center on board.
CAMEROTA: You can dive right off the side of the yacht?
ASLOU: Correct. Straight into the water.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.
(Voice-over): This is the 209-foot Atomic, a superyacht up for sale at Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Captain Alex Aslou, a Florida native, showed us some of the perks you can get for a mere $63 million.
Wait a second. What's this?
ASLOU: This would be our four-story glass elevator.
ASLOU: And here we have the owner's office.
CAMEROTA: Very lavish. So does the owner use this office?
ASLOU: Not very often but on occasion he does make some phone calls when he's here.
CAMEROTA: I'm glad you have a special room for phone calls. So obviously to propel a 210-foot-boat, you need a lot of fuel.
ASLOU: 35,000 gallons of fuel. Over three semitrucks full of fuel.
CAMEROTA: So when you fill up this yacht, what is the price tag?
ASLOU: Usually about $80,000.
CAMEROTA: $80,000. How often are you filling up?
ASLOU: Probably about seven times a year.
CAMEROTA: $80,000, seven times a year.
CAMEROTA: And that's just one of the maintenance costs.
ASLOU: Yes, that's relatively small on the spectrum how much money we spend to keep the vessel to a high standard.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Using the 10 percent industry standard, annual maintenance on this yacht would be roughly $6.3 million a year. But that's not why the owner wants to sell it.
This yacht is for sale.
CAMEROTA: Because the owner wants to upgrade?
ASLOU: That is correct, yes.
CAMEROTA: The owner wants a bigger yacht than this 210-foot yacht?
ASLOU: Yes. Slightly larger.
OSNOS: The most important question, and this drives the entire industry, is, who is willing to spend more on a bigger yacht? The entire thing only works if people are being tempted with the possibility of a bigger, more expensive yacht, constantly. CAMEROTA: Right. Because you'd think it's a one-off. You buy your
yacht, you're good. Oh, no.
OSNOS: No. It's a gateway drug.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): We met this impulse buyer looking for his first hit in Fort Lauderdale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the blue one.
CAMEROTA: You just bought it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CAMEROTA: How much?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $1.5 million.
(Voice-over): But just moments later, Felipe admits he may soon want something different.
Are you sure you won't want to graduate to a bigger boat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day, maybe. If I make enough money.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): When we checked back after the boat show, we learned Felipe already wanted something new. He put in an order for a different color.
KOENIG: The super yacht business is thriving, even owners of small boats will tell you that there's a thing called two-foot-itis. So basically you get a boat and you want one two feet bigger.
VITELLI: I cannot recall such a positive period. We have gained a lot of newcomers.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Osnos reports that in the '90s there were fewer than 10 megayachts over 250 feet. Today there are more than 200 in service. And according to the "Superyacht Times," close to 60 megayachts being built around the world.
What does the future of yachting look like?
AL SHAALI: Those people who can afford to buy yachts will be always there because they are not affected with the economic fluctuation.
CASHMAN: We have 50 million people that boat a year in the United States.
CAMEROTA: Right. But you don't have 50 million billionaires.
CASHMAN: I don't need 50 million. Give me 10.
CAMEROTA: Ten billionaires, that's all you're looking for. CASHMAN: That's all we need. 3 percent of the U.S. population owns a
boat. 97 percent prospect to me.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): While most people will likely never get to set foot on a gigayacht, I kept coming back to the same seemingly unanswerable question.
For the owners, are they happy on there? Do they end up feeling cooped up? How many times can you go to your own inner disco with just five of your friends?
OSNOS: That's the question. Is there any boat ultimately that will satisfy whatever it is that you're seeking, that drove you out into the water in the first place? In a candid moment, I remember a CEO in Silicon Valley said to me, look, the reality is that this thing can go on forever. You can continue finding and building and buying a bigger and bigger yacht. And the question that you're ultimately posing to yourself is, what is it actually that you're seeking?
COOPER: According to the "Superyacht Times," there were more than 5500 yachts over 98 feet long in operation by August of 2023. And industry experts think the market will continue to grow.
Thanks for watching THE WHOLE STORY. I'll see you next Sunday.