This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It would seem nigh impossible to inspire yacht envy amid the armada that bobs in the Mediterranean off the coast of Cannes every year, what with Paul Allen hosting regular bashes on the Octopus, his 400-footer with a twin helicopter hangar, and billionaires Roman Abramovich and Larry Ellison cruising in on their latest boy toys. But British philanthropist and entrepreneur John Caudwell might have succeeded with his superyacht Titania, named after the sleek fairy queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream and refloated last year after a $13 million stem-to-stern retrofit.
The 236-foot Titania was built in Germany in 2006 by Lurssen, the BMW of rarefied shipbuilders, whose works include Allen's Octopus and Azzam, the world's largest private yacht at 590 feet. (Superyacht prices range from $100 million to Azzam's staggering $622 million.) When Caudwell bought Titania in 2010, he fretted that the owner's suite so overshadowed its companion VIP suite in size and accoutrement that the difference might discomfit co-charterers unaccustomed to settling for second-best. So a second master suite with an onyx-clad bathroom was added on the sun deck, boasting "panoramic views and 270-degree wrap-around windows," says Caudwell. He also added a sauna and bar at sea level that "will appeal to people who want to party." The yacht was stretched 12 feet to accommodate the changes. Available for charter during Cannes, it goes for a bracing $785,000 a week.
A famously driven entrepreneur with an estimated worth of $2.6 billion, Caudwell, 60, is the founder of Britain's Phones4U mobile phone retailer and has made a name for himself beyond business. Last year, he hosted the Sky 2 network's reality show The Angel, on which business hopefuls competed for £100,000 ($155,440), and he runs the Caudwell Children charity, which aids disabled children. Caudwell, says Elton John, one of the nonprofit's ambassadors, "has always wanted to give back. He's my kind of guy."
He also is an avid cyclist known to log 40 miles before Sunday lunch. So Titania's sybaritic pleasures are tempered by the top deck's new air-conditioned gymnasium. An exercise bike takes center stage, surrounded by windows to enjoy the scenery of the Croisette. On the other hand, Titania's complement of jet skis and sailing dinghies acknowledges that the point of chartering a floating pleasure dome is pleasure. An al fresco bar beckons beside the upper deck's pool, while a formal indoor dining room includes a grand piano. "There are dozens of places on Titania to watch a film with friends," says Caudwell, who estimates there are 50 screens aboard, some of which drop down from the ceilings on the decks. Staff includes two chefs, a trainer and a masseuse.
"Titania is the best yacht afloat of its kind and size," declares its owner. Still, given a blank sheet (and check), Caudwell says he'd make space for a helicopter hangar and submarine bay. "But this, of course, would mean commissioning a far larger yacht." Of course.