Savarona used for first time as Turkish state yacht since prostitution scandal
by Risa Merl
The classic motor yacht Savarona has been used for the first time by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
President Erdogan hosted a foreign leader aboard the historic superyacht. This was the first time that Savarona had been used for a state event since the Turkish Culture Ministry had purchased the yacht from the businessman Kahraman Sadikoglu.
Under Kahraman Sadikoglu’s ownership, who purchased the yacht in 1989, Savarona was operated for tourism use, but the state bought back the yacht after a widely publicised scandal revealed in 2010 that Savarona had been used multiple times for prostitution purposes. This put the storied superyacht at the centre of a police investigation into a major crime ring, and it also made the list of the 15 biggest scandals at sea.
Built in 1931 by Blohm+Voss, the 136-metre yacht was far ahead of the pack in terms of size and scope as the largest and fastest in her day – and reportedly cost $4 million to build. She was refitted in 1992, with the her original steam turbines replaces by twin Caterpillar diesel engines, and more recently she’s had her shafts, propellers and rudders replaced. She also enjoyed an interior refit in 1992, with interiors by Donald Starkey. Notably, Savarona carries nearly 300 tonnes of polished marble, with more than 65 tonnes in the hammam alone.
Savarona was originally built for the American heiress Emily Roebling Cadwalader, whose family is noted as building both the iconic Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges in the US. The Cadwalader family enjoyed cruising Savarona in the Atlantic and Mediterranean for seven years, until she was sold to the Turkish government in 1938 and formally presented to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This began Savarona’s role as a state yacht as she was used to host world leaders and hold cabinet meetings. Upon Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s death, Savarona fell into the hands of the Turkish Naval Authorities. When Kahraman Sadikoglu purchased her in 1989, Savarona was in poor condition, calling for the extensive refit that required more than 400 workman.
Now Savarona will be used to welcome heads of state and escort President Erdogan during official visits, as was announced by the Turkish Tourism and Culture Minster on March 22. Savarona isn’t new to hosting the powerful and famous, her list of VIP guests include the Sultan of Brunei, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Prince Rainier, Nicole Kidman, Claudia Schiffer, Tom Cruise and Gerard Depardieu.