Mega-yacht wows Malibu crowds

The nearly 400-foot-long yacht was reported to cost more than $300 million to construct. It is owned by 38-year-old Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Those who spent the weekend at or near the beach might have believed that James Bond was visiting Malibu. Or maybe Captain Nemo. The appearance of the mega-yacht anchored just east of the Malibu Pier was enough to spark interest up and down the immediate coastline.

The “A” is the latest toy of 38-year-old Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, who has made his money through the banking, steel and fertilizer industries. The unusual hull on the ship, designed by consumer modernist Philippe Starck, has inspired raves and jeers among yacht enthusiasts and, apparently, nudged several companies involved with the customized construction of the yacht into bankruptcy. It was reported to cost more than $300 million to construct.

According to numerous reports, the yacht has three pools, including a high-powered jet pool for laps that can be switched from salt to fresh water; 23,600 square feet of living space, including a 2,583-square-foot master suite wrapped in bomb-proof, 44-milimeter glass; custom finishes such as bath knobs priced at $40,000 each and comfort features like Baccarat crystal tables, mahogany walls and alligator-hide chairs.

The 24,000-horsepower engines run on gas tanks that cost more than $500,000 to fill and the yacht requires at least $20 million per year to maintain.

Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner said that no other ship in the world currently is built to the same high technical standards as “A.”

He should know because the mayor got a first-hand look, which is a rare treat since it has been widely reported that the reclusive Melnichenko rarely lets anybody but his Serbian model wife Aleksandra Nikolic Melnichenkoor and the estimated 35 crew members aboard the yacht.

“I paddled out to the yacht in my kayak,” Wagner said. “I presented the crew member who greeted me with my business card zipped up in a baggie, and he invited me aboard.”

Wagner said the yacht was “gorgeous to look at,” but what he appreciated most was the well-maintained, “Lloyds of London 100-plus” quality standard.

“There is no other ship like this,” Wagner said. “Reported speed is about 23 knots, but I believe it can go up to 35.”

Wagner said local maritime rules stipulate that ships must anchor 300 yards offshore or 900 feet from the mean high-tide line on the beach and that the “A” con formed to requirements.

“I did mention to the crew member that Malibu had several fine dining options,” he said. “I recommended they take advantage of being in the neighborhood, and he said that he would pass along the tip. I believe they went to Geoffrey’s for dinner.”

Geoffrey’s management declined to confirm whether the restaurant received a visit.

“We maintain the privacy of all our guests,” a Geoffrey’s manager said. “But we did see the ship.”

Former Planning Commissioner Ed Gillespie, who brokers sales for yachts, referred to the vessel as a “giga yacht.”

“At 394 feet, it’s actually smaller than (Oracle Corp. CEO) Larry Ellison’s yacht, which is 458 feet,” Gillespie said. “I saw Ellison’s sailboat ‘Zenji’ up at Paradise Cove this weekend. So maybe the billionaires were having a little yacht party.”

Gillespie speculated that the “A” wasn’t able to berth in Marina del Rey because of its size.

“Marina del Rey averages 15 feet in depth and the ‘A’ draws at least 17 feet,” Gillespie said. “And its beam measures 62 feet. That’s really wide. It just wouldn’t fit.”

The “A” was still in Malibu as of Monday night.

“It sure turns heads,” said Gillespie, a bit wistfully. “I wouldn’t mind taking a ride.”

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