June 17, 2023 -A former senior Google executive, Friday, became the new owner of the multi-million dollar 276 feet yacht, Alfa Nero, that had been auctioned off in Antigua and Barbuda, following a failed court attempt to block the sale.
Port Authority manager, Darwin Telemacque, who spoke to reporters following the sale of the yacht, said Eric Schmidt, who gave a New York address and had been the chief executive officer of Google from 2001-11, emerged as the highest bidder for the vessel that had been moored in Falmouth Harbour since March 2022 on the southern coast of the island.
International media had said the yacht had been valued at US$81 million and is owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrey Guryev following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Guryev, who was subjected to United Kingdom government sanctions in April 2022, has denied being the owner.
“We are grateful for where it ended up. It is above the forced sale price, which is something we hoped would have really happened and we are grateful,” said Telemacque, adding that the new buyer has seven days to finalize the deal.
“He now owns it and he has the means to move it so let’s hope it gets going,” he said, adding “we are going to work with the new owner as quickly as possible to get him and his team to begin the process to get the vessel.
“That is the ultimate intent. We do have a vessel that poses some threat. That vessel is 259 tons, it is not a small ship, it drags well over eight meters (and) that means it cannot go many places within our circle around Antigua.
“It needs to get itself fully operational and ready to go and go sailing maybe to the United States and start making some money. We want to welcome it back. We want it to come back and be here as often as it wants to be but we want it to be here with a full crew,” Telemacque told reporters.
“We are pleased we now have an owner for the Alfa Nero and the owner is tasked on taking on all of the responsibilities to get the vessel ready and moving. We do have a hurricane season in existence now and as such it is quite important that the vessel be removed from where it is at and on its way”.
The auction, which was carried live on the state-owned ABS Television network, came as the Court of Appeal here denied an emergency injunction by former owners to prevent the sale of the yacht.
“At a moment when you are projecting on the global stage, you don’t want to have any flaws, you want to make sure things go well and I think the credibility of the process and the effectiveness of ensuring that everyone can trust it has been accomplished and that was the objective here,” Telemacque said in reference to the court matter.
Two separate entities and individuals have claimed ownership interest in the luxury vessel, prompting legal actions within the past 24 hours. The High Court granted permission for a judicial review, but not an injunction to stop the sale of the yacht.
“It is passing strange you would not say that for over a year and months nobody came forward, but just two days prior to the sale everybody is coming out of the woodwork,” said Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Steadroy Benjamin.
“I am not too bothered by that because I do not think the application has any merit at all and I cannot see why that should in any way [prevent] the sale….We are proceeding as normal and I am sure that the sale will take place as planned,” he added.
Attorney, Andrew O’Kola, who is representing persons claiming to be the owners of the yacht, had said his clients were pleased that the High Court granted permission for judicial review “on the basis that the proposed sale of the yacht may be unlawful, but disappointed that the High Court did not also grant an injunction to stop the sale going ahead until the legality of what the government is proposing can be properly considered by the courts.
“To be clear, however, whether the auction goes ahead [Friday] or not, anyone intending to bid for the yacht needs to know that the government’s argument that it has the legal power to transfer ownership of the yacht to a purchaser is still the subject of an ongoing challenge in the courts,” he said in a letter to the media.
Last month, the government of Antigua and Barbuda said it had been successful in its discussions with the United States concerning its application for a licence to proceed with the unfettered sale of the yacht that features a 12-metre infinity pool, a Jacuzzi, a spa, a beauty room and a helipad.