How David Geffen’s $400M Megayacht Became One of the Most Infamous Billionaires’ Toys

Not all superyachts are born equal. Those that either start or end up being owned by celebrities seem to gain a special aura that never leaves them. But that’s not all that makes them special – they always stand out due to some extraordinary feature or capability. The Rising Sun, however, achieved a different kind of notoriety, for negative reasons.
David Geffen's megayacht is a $400 million majestic luxury vessel 14 photos
Photo: Lurssen
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At first glance, the majestic Rising Sun seems to stand out only due to its size – at 454 feet (138 meters), it stands as one of the largest superyachts in the world. If the name reminds you of Japan (“Land of the Rising Sun”), that’s because this white beast was initially built for a different but equally famous billionaire, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, known for his passion for the Japanese culture.

Ellison gave all of his yachts names inspired by this culture, and the Rising Sun, built in 2004, was no exception, even though it ended up belonging to David Geffen, who reportedly purchased it from Ellison in 2010. It seemed like a right fit for one of the richest people in the world (towards the end of 2021, his net worth was up to $10 billion, according to Forbes), who also happened to be an entertainment industry tycoon with close ties to so many showbiz celebrities.

Known as the founder of three highly-successful record labels, plus the animated film studio DreamWorks, the 78-year-old billionaire had deep connections with both Los Angeles and New York and is a legendary figure in America’s record industry. But even though top-level guests such as Oprah, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Jeff Bezos himself were spotted onboard his megayacht, the Rising Sun had always been a rather discrete billionaire’s toy.

That was until 2020. Right when the health crisis that’s still affecting the planet to this day was getting worst, and the large-scale lockdown was in full swing, Geffen made a terrible faux pas. He shared a gorgeous photo of his giant superyacht, cruising near the Grenadines islands, where apparently the billionaire was self-isolating. His caption, “hope everybody is staying safe,” instantly went viral, and the avalanche of responses and remarks on social media made headlines.

Rising Sun
Photo: Lurssen
The music mogul was slammed for being tone-deaf, bragging about basically vacationing onboard a stunning superyacht in wonderful locations while people in the U.S. and all over the world were struggling with the worst consequences of the pandemic. The media storm eventually determined Geffen to deactivate his Instagram.

Everybody knew about the Rising Sun now – it became the symbol of social injustice and economic disparity in a world that was being torn apart by the pandemic. Celebrity-owned superyachts were no longer something to admire for their beauty and innovation but a distasteful sign of entitlement.

For the record, Geffen was also involved in philanthropic projects before and after the unfortunate post. He donated hundreds of millions in support of medical research, the arts, and education. Most recently, he pledged $75 million to the Columbia Business School in September 2021. But none of that was taken into account at the time because, despite his philanthropic work, that infamous social media post proved that he was actually not in touch with the American society at large.

Sadly, the Rising Sun will mostly be remembered as Geffen’s notorious, $400 million-worth self-isolating toy. This, even though it remains mysterious to this day, with very few details known about its interior and layout.

Rising Sun
Photo: Lurssen
What it should be remembered and appreciated for is that it represents the last project of world-renown designer Jon Bannenberg. It was designed for the German shipbuilder Lurssen, and Bannenberg had also created Lurssen’s first large superyacht, so the Rising Sun will always have a special meaning for the famous shipbuilder.

Although he would not get to see the mammoth yacht completed, Bannenberg’s original concept was carried out masterfully, according to Boat International. It’s obvious in the extensive use of structural glass. Lurssen stated that the large window panels are this superyacht’s main characteristic. Plus, they were coated with a special heat-insulating foil, which helps save energy for air-conditioning. The vessel was also fitted with custom, more efficient soot particle filters.

It takes 45 crew members to attend to all the guests (up to 18) onboard this massive yacht, offering over 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) of living spaces across five levels. Onyx jacuzzi bathrooms, a generous wine cellar, a fully-equipped gym, plus a sauna and spa are just some of its lavish amenities. The helicopter pad doubles as a basketball court, and a double-height cinema is ready for top-level entertainment.

In terms of performance, the imposing Rising Sun cruises at 26 knots (30 mph/48 kph) but can go close to 30 (34.5 mph/55.5 kph) and was refitted in 2011. Since the infamous incident, it stayed mostly in the shadow, for private leisure only, and its billionaire owner seems to have learned his lesson about sharing too much at the wrong time.

Rising Sun
Photo: Lurssen
One of the largest superyachts in the world, created by a legendary designer, the stunning Rising Sun is now infamous. But only if and when it will hit the market, David Geffen’s megayacht will reveal all of its beauty and secrets.

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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
Otilia Drăgan profile photo

Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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