Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Tracking the Yachts and Jets of the Mega-Rich"

I misplaced the hat tip for the earlier "A Norwegian, a Russian Billionaire and Trump Walk Into... Concord NC?" which is egregious because I not only used the link MetaFilter found first but purloined their title as well.
Here's the HT up front for both this NYT link and the earlier three-beat beauty:
"MetaFilter: A Norwegian, a Russian Billionaire and Trump Walk Into..."
From the New York Times, March 31, 2017
The Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev’s jet and yacht were in some places at times when President Trump or members of his family were in the same area, 
according to tracking data. Investigations of potential ties between the president and Russia have drawn attention to location-tracking sites.
The hunt for connections between President Trump and a Russian billionaire has led to a little-known corner of the internet: websites that track the private yachts and jets of the rich.

News reports in recent weeks have highlighted some unusual patterns in the movements of a private jet and a yacht owned by the Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev.

The trips don’t prove any connection or relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rybolovlev, of course. Mr. Rybolovlev — better known for his messy divorce and involvement in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit — may simply be a victim of the growing scrutiny of the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia.

Yet during the presidential campaign, Mr. Rybolovlev’s plane and boat were in the same locations as Mr. Trump or members of his family, according to tracking data.

Mr. Rybolovlev’s private jet, for instance, landed in North Carolina last November less than two hours before Mr. Trump arrived for a campaign event, according to the McClatchy news service, which used flight-tracking data to locate the plane.

Mr. Rybolovlev’s yacht, named Anna, was also followed. The 220-foot ship was in Croatia last summer on the same days that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were vacationing there.

Mr. Rybolovlev said through Brian Cattell, a spokesman, that “Mr. Rybolovlev travels frequently to many different destinations, including destinations across the U.S. If Mr. Rybolovlev was physically in the same place as Mr. Trump at any time, this was pure coincidence.”

Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Rybolovlev’s paths have intersected before. A trust linked to Mr. Rybolovlev bought an estate in Palm Beach from Mr. Trump in 2008 for $95 million. Both men say that despite the transaction, they have never met.

What makes the stories surprising, however, is the amount of easily searchable data on the locations of Mr. Rybolovlev’s private jet and yacht. New technology, specialized websites and an army of amateur plane-spotters and yacht-watchers around the world have made it easier than ever for anyone to pinpoint a billionaire’s yacht or jet anywhere in the world and track their movements.

“It’s remarkable really,” said Jonathan Beckett, the chief executive of Burgess, a yacht brokerage and advisory firm. “Anyone can go to a website, type in a name and find an owner’s yacht. It’s a little scary.”

For the news media, wealth voyeurs and many of the rich themselves, the ability to track jets and yachts provides welcome transparency and safety benefits. But for the rich who look to their yachts and jets as cocoons of privacy, the mass of digital eyes following them represents an unwelcome intrusion and even a security threat.

“When owners step on their yacht, they want to feel totally safe,” Mr. Beckett said. “A lot of the wealthy prefer to stay under the radar.”

For the most part, yacht- and plane-spotters are more like bird-watchers — hobbyists on the lookout for rare or unusual species in unlikely locales. They loiter on marine docks, boat channels and airport access roads in hopes of spotting and photographing a yacht like Larry Ellison’s 288-foot Musashi or a jet like Paul Allen’s $70 million custom Gulfstream G650.

“Apparently there are a lot of people with nothing to do but hang out at airports and take pictures of planes and their tail numbers,” said Jay Duckson, a private-jet broker and adviser with Central Business Jets....MUCH MORE