There has been something of an overnight media uproar, at the time I am writing this, which one could bluntly label as, ‘isolation jealousy’, further to an Instagram post by 77-year-old superyacht owner David Geffen, who is currently self-isolating with his crew on board the 138m Luerssen, ‘Rising Sun’.
Geffen’s post on Instagram consisted of an image of the impressive vessel, with the caption, ‘Sunset last night… Isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus. I hope everybody is staying safe,’ resulting in headlines asking billionaires to ‘stop showing off’.
While it would, of course, be preferable for us all to be in isolation on board a superyacht - with everything you could possibly need, combined with the gorgeous backdrop of the Grenadines, I think all of us who are able to isolate in our own homes or with relatives are in a privileged, safe and lucky position. Additionally, it was not so long ago that the ‘Be Kind’ movement rose to the top of Instagram’s trends. Yet here we are criticising the self-isolation choices of an individual who, due to his age, is determined to be in the 'at risk' category for COVID-19 being potentially fatal.
Geffen’s account, which has since been deleted further to the enraged response from members of the press, was setting a positive example to his followers to self-isolate and abide by what all governments are recommending. However, more aggravated Instagram users questioned why the billionaire had not publicly donated to the fight against Coronavirus. How do we know he hasn’t? A renowned generous contributor to the arts, and various schools of medicine, it is not something we can assume has been overlooked. According to Forbes, a donation of $1m had, in fact, been made by Geffen prior to the post.
The superyacht industry, and those who keep it afloat, are so often painted in a negative light when discussing contemporary global challenges (lest we forget the reaction to Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Earth Fund announcement…). But why are these journalists still ignorant to the industry’s economic footprint, or the huge possibilities when on board a superyacht, to provide humanitarian aid and assistance when possible?
During Hurricane Dorian last year, YachtAid Global noted on its Facebook page that, ‘Numerous boat owners have reached out to us at YachtAid Global asking how they can bring aid to those who need it at Bahamas, and do it safely’, while M/Y Loon and other large vessels had already begun their journey, being guided by intelligence and information from a team on the ground who were able to support them and ensure their safe arrival and departure.
More recently, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sunseeker, the British superyacht manufacturing stalwart, has donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The PPE equipment donation consists of 400 face masks and 4000 gloves, which will today be delivered to Poole Hospital, local to Sunseeker International’s headquarters.
Just around the corner from my isolation location, NHS staff are currently able to stay at the Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge free of charge, thanks to Roman Abramovich, while Giorgio Armani has donated £1.1 m to Italian hospitals according to the Independent, and Jeff Bezos is speeding up the COVID-19 testing process we are all waiting for by investing $20 million into the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, according to Forbes.
What do all of these people have in common? They are all superyacht owners. So, in contrast to the furore generated by this latest mainstream media circus, I would argue that now is not the time to be attacking the UHNWI network. The advice at present is to stay home, which is what many owners like Geffen consider their vessels to be, so he should be able to do so - and post about it - without people informing him which of his homes the general public would prefer he isolate in.
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