Russian billionaire lands in San Luis Obispo County for tour of Hearst Castle

Tribune photo by Joe Johnston

It was an odd sight, to put it mildly: A 390-foot super yacht with the look of a submarine parked outside the Morro Bay breakwater.

No, it wasn’t the Morro Bay City Council’s purchase of an offshore gambling facility; it was the $350 million runabout of 38-year-old Russian multibillionaire Andrey Melnichenko. He and his wife, Serbian supermodel Aleksandra Melnichenko, came ashore Tuesday to take a private tour of Hearst Castle.

According to their driver, Eric John Reynolds of Stagecoach Wine Tours of Santa Ynez, the couple is heading north from San Diego — with a stop offshore at Malibu on Monday — en route to San Francisco.

With a net worth of $4.4 billion, Melnichenko is No. 189 on the Forbes list of wealthiest people in the world. How did he do it? Fertilizer.

Actually, Eurochem, Russia’s largest mineral-fertilizer producer, is just one of his holdings.

In the best tradition of Horatio Alger, Melnichenko started his business ascension with a chain of currency-exchange booths, parlayed that into MDM Bank in 1993, and then partnered with billionaire Sergey Popov to create TMK, Russia’s largest pipe exporter. They later developed SUEK, the country’s largest independent coal producer, according to Forbes.

So what does a billionaire with a Serbian supermodel wife do in his down time? Has a yacht assembled by German builder Blohm + Voss in 2008 and names it “A” after the initials of the couple’s first names.

Undoubtedly more at home in the waters off the French Riviera than the Central Coast, the almost 400-foot-long vessel probably could have made it into Morro Bay — although its draft of almost 17 feet would have made it a touch-and-go proposition with the bottom. But it probably couldn’t have turned around once it got nosed in.

No matter, one of the vessel’s 30-foot custom cruisers dropped the A’s on the Embarcadero docks.

The A, by the numbers, is somewhat numbing in its capacity and appetite: It’s 62 feet wide at its beam; has an owner’s suite and six cabins; has a crew of 37 and a staff of 5; has twin 6,000 horsepower engines; carries almost 25,000 gallons of water for its hot tubs, pools and spas; and can hit speeds of 23 knots, although its cruising speed is around 19.5 knots, which can take it more than 6,500 nautical miles nonstop.

Its hull is steel, its superstructure is aluminum and the decks are covered in teak. You can check out the details at a website the rich would bookmark: superyachts.com. The website calls the ship “one of the finest yachts on the water.”

Oh, and if you’re thinking of topping off its 200,000 gallon diesel tanks, that only costs around $600,000 per fill-up.

So what did they think of the Central Coast?

“They mostly chatted quietly,” Reynolds said after dropping the couple back at the docks later Tuesday afternoon. “But they mentioned how beautiful the area is. Other than that, he had a nice smile, handshake and was mostly within his own groove.”