The Middlemen Helping Russian Oligarchs Get Superyachts and Villas

The Middlemen Helping Russian Oligarchs Get Superyachts and Villas

But Mr. Kochman was still spending a lot of time in Moscow. That year he attended an exhibition for the ultrawealthy, with one of his British-built yachts on display. “We buy your yachts and you buy our gas,” Mr. Kochman told a Guardian reporter. Soon, his business took off.

Rich Russians and Persian Gulf royalty now dominate the ranks of owners of the world’s most extravagant superyachts, which can cost up to $75 million a year to operate. Since 2010, 17 superyachts 400 feet or longer have been delivered; all are owned by Russians or members of the Gulf monarchies.

In about 2014, Imperial Yachts landed its biggest project to date, a 349-foot superyacht to be constructed by Lürssen, a German shipbuilder: This would become the Amadea. Its Russian owner was sparing no expense, with hand-painted Michelangelo-style clouds above the dining table, a lobster tank, a fire pit and, at the bow, a five-ton stainless-steel Art Deco albatross figurehead. Nick Flashman, a former yacht captain who had joined Imperial, oversaw the project. Zuretti, a French firm, did the interior design.

Sébastien Gey, the director at Zuretti, said in an interview that the yacht’s owner — whom he declined to name because of nondisclosure agreements — was deeply involved in its design and construction, making frequent visits as the ship was built and outfitted. It was delivered in 2017.

But even before it was finished, the owner had Lürssen build another, larger superyacht, the Crescent, delivered in 2018, followed by the even bigger 459-foot Scheherazade, which went into service in 2020. Most of the planning and details for those two vessels were left to Mr. Kochman, recalled Mr. Gey.

That, Mr. Flashman said, was not unusual. “The client may be fully immersed in the project, he might not be,” he said in a phone interview. “I channel everything through Mr. Kochman.”

While Imperial Yachts oversees the projects, Lürssen, based in Bremen, receives payments directly from yacht owners, a company spokesman said. Lürssen is following “all sanctions and associated laws,” he added.

Janice Parks

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