Sometime this week, a giant, floating, three-masted metaphor will arrive in Port Everglades. Specifically, it's the Maltese Falcon, one of the world's largest and most expensive private boats. The 289-foot ship is every inch an example of a simple fact of the times: While the poor struggle with a weak economy, the superrich hoist their gleaming white sails.
Now sure, that might sound a bit negative, but check out how the Maltese Falcon ended up floating into port here sometime on Wednesday or Thursday, according to a source who spoke to the Pulp on
condition of anonymity.
Venture capitalist Tom Perkins had the Maltese Falcon built back in 2005. It was said to be the most expensive and fastest sailing ship ever built, with a risky design employing 15 sails on carbon-fiber masts.
You might recognize Perkins' name from the days when he served on the board at Hewlett-Packard. He quit after the company used some dastardly means to investigate the board. Or you might know Perkins for his ex-wife: author Danielle Steele.
Anyway, Perkins got sick of his toy boat and listed it for sale four years later. Nobody bit for the asking price of $165 million, so Perkins was forced to lower it substantially -- tough times, you know. In August 2009, the highest-paid woman in Britain, hedge-fund manager Elena Ambrosiadou, plunked down the nine-figure asking price, reportedly about $100 million.
Ambrosiadou began her climb to boating history while working as an executive at BP. In 1992, she used just $97,000 to open a hedge fund that she grew to a value of $324 million. For her brilliance, she has paid herself as much as $25 million a year.
After the purchase, she told the London Times that her big boat will likely go unused. "I work 16 hours a day, seven days a week," she told the paper. "I doubt if I'll be spending much time on her."
So, let's recap: This week, a boat will come to our fair city with a value equal to the amount of money President Obama ordered cut from the federal budget. It's also the amount Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg gave to Newark schools in the hopes of creating a decent district. In other words, if you're rich enough to build yourself such an extravagance, you can either hoist 15 sails on carbon-fiber masts, or you could save the federal budget or fix the schools of a major U.S. city.
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Then you have the owners, who mention all the keywords of the past decade's financial collapse, like hedge funds, corporate malfeasance, venture capitalists, and BP. One of them tired of this toy in just a few years, and the other bought it knowing she'd rarely, if ever, board it. This is the money you don't have, and this is the money you don't have going to a toy she doesn't really even want.
So yes, the Maltese Falcon earns the right to be called a floating metaphor. Head to the beach and you might catch a sighting of its white masts, emblazoned with a black falcon. That is, if you can afford the beach parking.