When it comes to business there is not much that Peter Munk hasn’t turned his hand to. Having arrived in Canada after he and his family were some of the last Jews to escape Hungary in the Second World War, he graduated in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto and so began a long career as a successful businessman. Currently the chairman and founder of the world’s biggest gold-trading business Barrick Gold (at the end of last year he announced he would be retiring from this position in the spring), other business endeavours have included electronics and a large hospitality chain throughout Australasia, and he is also an active philanthropist.

Throughout his career a work-life balance was always important to Munk and a family-oriented yacht charter became an annual tradition. “In the holidays my five kids would all want to do different things,” he recalls. “My wife and I decided we would put them on a yacht and so every summer for twenty or thirty years we chartered the same yacht [32.6m Lady Ecosse] and that way we got the family all together.”

As a businessman with such a long history of chartering yachts, it was almost inevitable that he would eventually fall into a yacht-related project. And what a project Porto Montenegro turned out to be. Since opening in 2009 the marina development, has been an undeniable success. “I’ve got an active business mind and when you sit on a boat you have plenty of time to think,” he says. Having worked in the hospitality industry Munk well understood how capital intensive hotel ownership can be and how a greater occupancy necessitates further investment to keep the offering at the required high standard. “I realised that the same docks in Porto Cervo that I first went to in 1972 had undergone no change and yet what used to cost three dollars per metre for a night now costs thirty dollars a metre,” he tells us. “To me it seemed like a very exciting business prospect.”

Porto Montenegro

Having been advised that Montenegro could make for an interesting development project, Munk met with officials and ministers from the country, which at the time was still in the final stages of becoming independent. With a bold vision for the country to become the ‘Monaco of the Baltic’, thereby raising living standards of the average inhabitant, the team of Montenegro officials were looking for a backer to support them. “I said, ‘Well, that would require a rich fool,’” laughs Munk. “A poor fool wouldn’t do and a rich brilliant man wouldn’t invest in Montenegro when he could go to New York or London.” Munk is clearly no fool, but despite his initial reservations went on to learn more about the country. “I was astounded seeing on the one hand the fjords, old walled-in Venetian towns, snow on the peaks and national heritage sites, and then on the other this unbelievable naval base.”

Seeking the advice of George Nicholson, a long-time industry friend, Munk was assured by him that Montenegro was what he describes as ‘the most protected and the finest inland bay on the whole of the Adriatic’ and that it held huge potential as a superyacht destination. At that time it must have taken vision to see what the abandoned communist naval base could become. Sold on the idea, Munk brought together a group of fellow investors, himself the majority shareholder, and so work began. The rest, as they say, is history.

Golden Eagle

It was the Porto Montenegro project itself that saw Munk make the step into ownership after so many years of chartering. “George [Nicholson] saw the boat for sale and said to me ‘this is your boat’. So I went to the boat show straight away and I bought it!” he remembers. Built in 1990 by Picchiotti, 43m Golden Eagle served as a floating office and hosting space in the early stages of the project. Today she is more of a family yacht, and Munk usually spends around six weeks a year cruising on board, continuing that long tradition of family time afloat. A favourite cruising ground is the Dalmatian Islands and the coastline. “Compared with how it was ten years ago it’s much busier now,” he says. “But there is magnificent water, a huge number of islands and little old restaurants and fisherman – all the things you dream about when you think of yachting.”

Read the full interview with Peter Munk in issue 11 of The Superyacht Owner

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