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July is Italian Month here on autoevolution. You can’t get a better appreciation of Italian taste and design, or Italian accomplishments in the marine field than by perusing through the impressive portfolio of the Viareggio-based Benetti. Ironically, the shipyard’s most controversial project, Nabila (the name Kingdom 5KR started out with) is also the one that brought it on the brink of ruin and allowed Azimut Yachts to take over.
Here is a superyacht that was designed specifically to give every other yacht owner an inferiority complex, to overwhelm, and inspire awe through sheer opulence. More importantly, here is a superyacht that set the tone for what is today’s trend in yacht-building and yacht-ownership: the bigger the better.
In 1978, Saudi billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi commissioned Benetti to build him a new superyacht. He’d owned yachts ever since he was 18 and, right at the moment, had two of them, each impressive in its own right; he wanted something that had never been done before, a vessel that would shame even the owners of bigger yachts.
Designed by Jon Bannenberg Ltd. on a naval architecture by Benetti and with interior design by Luigi Sturchio, the vessel was delivered just two years later – an impressive feat on its own, if you consider the size and scale of the project. Khashoggi named it Nabila after his daughter and, in every way, the 85.9-meter (282-foot) superyacht was able to stand out. With over 100 rooms / spaces, 11 lavishly appointed suites, and the most expensive furnishes and luxurious amenities, it is believed it cost Khashoggi in the vicinity of $85 million, which is roughly $289 million in today’s money.
If you think that the likes of Jeff Bezos and Roman Abramovich are now sailing the seven seas on superyachts that cost upwards of $500 million, that might seem… cheap. At the time, though, Nabila was the most sumptuous, incredible and shamelessly outrageous vessel ever built. It set the tone for all the other billionaires in terms of what to get for “a boat” and, for a while, shamed them for not having thought of it first. To this day, it remains a highly competent vessel, and one of the world’s biggest.
It’s also a movie star, having featured in the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never with Sean Connery.
With its five decks, Nabila presented a dazzling interior: floors of onyx and marble, real gold trims, a solid silver bar in one of the lounges, and walls covered in chamois leather and precious wood. Amenities included pools, a 12-seat cinema with its own 800-film library, a helipad with storage, a massive owner suite with secret passages and its own elevator, a nightclub, and a hospital with an operating theater. Given Khashoggi’s line of work, that last one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Khashoggi didn’t get to enjoy it that long, but at least he made the most of it: he would often entertain several princes, businessmen and politicians at once, hold business meetings and close different transactions, some less legal than others, in international waters. By the mid-’80s, he was already having money issues. Unable to pay back a $50 million loan for the construction of Nabila, he had it seized: he’d listed the superyacht as collateral. Benetti Yachts was struggling as well, because they had underestimated the toll building Nabila would take on the company. Paolo Vitelli, founder of Azimut Yachts, took over and invested his last dime to put the giant back on its feet.
A Swiss bank took the vessel and immediately listed it for sale in 1987, with an asking price of $50 million. Over in New York, one shrewd businessman by the name of Donald Trump saw the same opportunity that Khashoggi had seen when placing the commission: a superyacht that was much like an advertising billboard for himself. Trump bargained and got it for $28 million, and another million was shaved off when he agreed to rename it.
Donald Trump never liked boats or, for that matter, sailing, but he’d had his eye on this one for a very long time. In interviews, he called it the “ultimate toy” and the most striking piece of art, the kind that will make anyone instantly noticeable. He renamed it Princess Trump and had it refitted at the cost of $8.5 million. The interiors were kept largely the same, but he did add a children’s playground and converted one of the most garish rooms into a cloakroom.
On the 4th of July 1988, Trump sailed Princess into New York. In April next year, as he opened a new gambling resort in Atlantic City, he was told money was tight, so he’d have to cut some expenses so, for the second time, the superyacht was listed for sale. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bought it in 1991 for $19 million and, for most of the time, he keeps it moored in France. It rarely ever goes out and, with the Prince saying he would donate his entire $32 billion fortune to charity, some wonder whether this also applies to his superyacht. Nabila has been renamed Kingdom 5KR – where 5 stands for the Prince’s lucky number, and K and R for the initials of his children.
Kingdom 5KR is no longer a rarity on the scene of megayachts, but it remains an impressive vessel. Powered by twin Nohap Polar engines, it has a top speed of 20 knots, and a range of 8,500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 17 knots. It has no less than three water-makers, and storage for a three-month supply of food for 100 people. Its interiors verge on tacky by today’s standards or, at the very best, they’re outdated, but they can still provide quality entertainment for 22 guests and accommodation for a crew between 31 and 52.
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