Russian billionaire visits Sounds

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 07:47 22/01/2013
Superyacht

Wealthy Russian businessman Mikhail Khimich's 160-foot superyacht Thalia moored near Waikawa Bay

Mikhail Khimich
Marlborough’s guest: Thalia owner Mikhail Khimich and the superyacht’s designer Ron Holland

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Marlburians may have noticed a Russian billionaire celebrating his birthday on a sleek, dark-coloured, 160-foot superyacht in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Originally from Moscow, Waiwera Water and Thermal Resort owner Mikhail Khimich spent the past week sailing the Sounds on his yacht, Thalia, with his girlfriend and up to eight fulltime crew.

Marlborough Shuttles Picton area manager Nicci Bergman said she and the shuttle company helped run errands for the wealthy businessman, which included delivering a cake made by her friend, Shannon Rowe, on Mr Khimich's birthday on Friday.

She took a chef from his yacht to Fresh Choice, Picton, to buy groceries and to the Picton Village Bakkerij.

Mr Khimich told her he was enjoying his holiday in the Marlborough Sounds with friends.

"The language barrier made conversation a little bit difficult but we had fun talking to him about the local history."

They chatted about Marlborough hosting the Russian rugby team during the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Mr Khimich was believed to have had a corporate box at Eden Park during the final All Blacks' victory.

"He's a rugby fan and he was impressed with how well the Russian team were treated in Marlborough," she said.

The pair did not discuss the region's famous Russian boating incident, the sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov near Port Gore in 1986.

Thalia became involved in a controversy when the superyacht and her owner were involved in a dispute with officials from the Volvo Ocean Race at the Auckland Viaduct in March last year.

The yacht flew a Waiwera Water advertising flag near the race which was sponsored by Coca-Cola, but a negotiation involving acceptable times for the flag to be flown was talked through on the yacht.

Ms Bergman described Mr Khimich as a "lovely, down to earth man" who was "very friendly".

The multimillion-dollar yacht was his "home away from home" and the event was a good chance to show Picton could cater for high-end visitors, she said.

Marlborough florist store Verve owner Jeanine Wardman supplied flowers for the crew to decorate the yacht on Thursday and a special assortment for Mr Khimich's birthday on behalf of the Moscow office of Waiwera Water.

It was nice to create six vases of flowers to adorn the inside of the superyacht but the real pleasure was getting the chance to create a bouquet for a man, she said.

"It's a lovely brief for a florist to receive, the chance to create something special for a man . . . I used a lot of darker colours, dark red, orange, and eucalyptus. Most flowers go to women but to be asked to do them for a male's birthday was really a pleasure."

She delivered the flowers to a New Zealand crew member who arrived in a dinghy at the end of a jetty at Picton Marina. She believed some of the flowers were also for Mr Khimich's girlfriend.

A staff member at the Waiwera Thermal Resort and Spa, just north of Auckland, said he was "not at liberty" to share any details of the owner's travel plans.

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Land Information New Zealand records show Mr Khimich was granted permission under the Overseas Investment Act to buy 10 hectares of land from the Waiwera Valley Properties Ltd in 2010.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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