This week, Lord Norman Foster arrived in Italy to launch his first super-yacht design, the $24 million Ocean Emerald. And, if you made some extra dough shorting bank stocks or simply need a cozy headquarters as you plot world domination, you're in luck: The yacht's a time share; the 134-foot vessel sleeps 12, in five suites, furnished by Cassina.
This is the first boat to be launched by Yacht Plus, a joint venture that hitched its public image onto Lord Foster's star. For Foster, it was a smart move. When it was first proposed a couple years ago, his firm was eagerly looking to expand beyond architecture, and into industrial design. (Witness its recent winning entry, with Aston Martin, for a competition to redesign London's buses.) And Yacht Plus, for its part, maintains that the strategy will win despite the economic climate. In a "note to editors," on Foster's Web site, they write: "In these challenging economic times fractional ownership is rapidly becoming recognized as the logical and financially astute way of owning high-end luxury products. The days of private ownership of super-yachts are rapidly diminishing owing to the extremely high ongoing running and maintenance costs." Got that, editors? Fractional yachts are economical. Private yacht ownership? A thing of the lost decade.
Yacht Plus plans on launching three more Foster-designed yachts in the next two years, with the newest one entering service in October. Presumably, the market will be men like Foster himself: He was recently reported to have lost $118 million in the recession, but he still has a plump nest egg of around $250 million.