- The owner overcame dislexia to become Norway’s richest man
- Spent time in prison for corruption
- Now on a mission to save the world’s oceans
- Will give all his wealth away on his passing
The images of the REV inspire awe, eclipsing other superyachts both in size and technological innovation. In the highly competitive world of superyachts size matters. The REV Ocean coming in at 183 meters ranks it at the top of the world’s fleet, costing Norwegian owner Kjell Inge Røkke an estimated $ 350 million. Not that the 62-year-old Norwegian, with a personal fortune valued at $ 5.46 billion, needs any more kudos to gauge his self-worth. His motivation is not personal vanity or the need for universal recognition, but a higher calling: to save the oceans from the mess that humanity has made of them.
In fact, the REV Ocean is being built as a working research vessel with all the latest integrated luxury facilities. The boat will be used for missions to save the planet, starting on its scheduled maiden voyage, crossing from the North Pole to Antarctica
in 250 days. The already celebrated superyacht will start crossing the oceans imminently.
The REV Ocean – an acronym for Research & Expedition Vessel – is the owner’s way of paying back his debt to the oceans which made him Norway’s richest man ( and a spell in prison for corruption). Forbes Magazine described him as having ‘built up a reputation as a ruthless corporate raider’. He is on a new mission now.
His story is incredible, starting from adversity to extreme wealth and then a Damascene conversion. Røkke as a child had all the odds stacked against him. He grew up in a poor family, struggled at school due to dyslexia and got an early job as a fishing boat worker. He still remembers the words of one of his teachers who once told him that if he ever managed to get as much as a driver’s license, he should consider that as his greatest and one and only success in life. Unperturbed, he embarked on a working life on fishing boats, before realising that working for somebody would always limit his earning capacity. He set about saving his wages in order to invest in his own boat.
In an interview a few months ago, Røkke remembered that nothing was ever given to him. When his friends spent their earnings on outings or luxury vacations, he saved. In 1982,with a capital of $ 75,000, he invested in his first boat. His life of austerity seemed to have paid off – but not for long. His first fishing boat was destroyed by fire, the second he acquired a little later sank. But he was undeterred. With funds from bank investments, in the late 80s he created American Seafoods, a company that came to stake a place as the leader in cod fishing from Alaska. His fish was cash-rich which would open up new investment opportunities when the economic turmoil of his homeland in the early 1990s allowed him to build a portfolio of businesses bought in the downturn. The Norwegian market needed cash and he had plenty – his company’s net profit was now $ 18 million a year.His businesses diversified to other fields: from clothing chains to oil extraction.
In 2015, at the age of 54, he went through an existential crisis. He had achieved (almost) everything he set out to, amassed enough wealth to provide for generations of his descendants, but he had not done much for his personal legacy. Two years later, the REV Ocean environmental project was launched. He affiliated with the Norwegian WWF which after some reluctance, was eventually convinced by his environmental evangelism.
REV Ocean can safely and luxuriously carry up to 90 people – the ratio is 54 scientists and 36 crew members when it works as a researcher, 54 crew members and 28 passengers sharing 14 cabins when it crosses the oceans for leisure – with enough supplies for 124 days. Designed by the leading shipbuilder Espen Øino, the superyacht combines innovation with comfort but also scientific facilities with luxury. The biggest puzzle that the designers had to solve to build a hybrid leisure craft and research vessel, a world first. The boat is more than twice the length of each similar exploration yacht, has three laboratories (biological, geological and microbiological), a submarine that can reach up to 7. 500 depth and equipment for pumping samples from a depth of 6,000 meters. For the research needs, special meeting rooms have been created, as well as an amphitheater with a capacity of 35 people. The three swimming pools, the dining areas -inside and outside-, the helipad and the cinema are all essential components of a luxury superyacht that honors and respects its pioneering design. The good news is that scientists involved in environmental programs will be hosted on the boat for free thanks to the social responsibility program drawn up by the Røkke group of companies.