Jeff Bezos’ superyacht has dominated headlines for some weeks now; a floating emblem of the Amazon founder’s vast success and an integral part of his efforts to seemingly build a new life for himself and new boo Lauren Sanchez, the yacht has been hailed as a triumph of engineering and prestige by many. However, a newly released op-ed suggests that the vessel may be harbouring a dark secret that could taint its glowing reputation…
It’s been a busy couple of months for Jeff Bezos. Between wearing a barely-there sheer polo to the Miami GP, his controversial $723m yacht finally being seen under sail for the first time, and construction pushing ahead for his new wife’s $270m mega-mansion, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the once world’s richest man (who’s recently been eclipsed by Bernard Arnault and Elon Musk) may have wanted to stay out of the headlines for a few weeks.
Unfortunately for him, a newly released op-ed has gone after the Amazon founder – labelling him a hypocrite for attempting to market himself, and his gargantuan business, as being environmentally and socially progressive while his brand new superyacht may be constructed from so-called “blood timber”.
Here, we explain where the offending timber comes from, what exactly makes it so controversial, and whether any hard evidence linking Bezos’ yacht, the Koru, to the morally dubious practice is yet to be identified.
WATCH: Blood-stained or not, it’s a good-looking yacht.
In a piece for Mongabay, John Woolwich is quick to highlight Bezos’ plentiful pledges in support of the environment, including but not limited to a $1 billion USD pledge to combat climate change via his so-called ‘Earth Fund’ and a new endeavour aimed at halting deforestation and desertification by planting twenty-million trees across Africa in an initiative known as ‘The Green Wall Initiative’.
However, a little-known theory about Bezos’ new yacht could fly in the face of all these seemingly progressive promises.
In short, the yacht — which features a steel hull with three giant stainless steel furlers weighing around 900 kilograms and named after the Māori fern-leaf motif, a symbol of creation and new beginnings to the native people of New Zealand — is adorned with decks crafted from highly sought after teak timber, known around the world for its durability and elegance. This timber, however, could be linked to some pretty grim events at its point of origin.
Though teak can be found in a small number of countries across Southeast Asia, the highest quality teak is generally considered to come from Myanmar (formerly Burma), which has not only been accused of almost unparalleled amounts of illegal and uncompensated deforestation — relative to its total land area, having cut down an area the size of Switzerland since 2001 — but has also garnered the nickname of “blood timber” for its wood exports thanks to the bloody coup that took place in February 2021 and the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people.
Despite stern stances taken by both the EU (where Koru was assembled) and the US in relation to imports from Myanmar, several sources claim that vast amounts of their timber are still being imported with the help of corrupt practices in the supply chain. Though there is currently no hard evidence directly showing that the timber in Koru has come directly from Myanmar, there is also no hard evidence to suggest that it has not come from the politically embroiled nation.
Though the shipbuilder cites so-called DNA testing on the timber via a firm called Helix Tracking Technologies, doubts persist as to the credibility of the method used and the integrity of the firm in question.
Woolwich argues that if Bezos was willing to have the yacht’s timber properly verified by an independent third party, he could put the rumours to bed and align his new toy with the values his company claims to espouse. For now, the shadow of suspicion lingers, leaving us to wonder if beneath its luxurious veneer lies a tale of “blood timber” that could stain its grandeur forever.