Was Maurizio Gucci’s Creole cursed? Multiple owners of classic 63m wooden sailing yacht have met untimely deaths
Labeled the world’s largest wooden sailing yacht, Creole has seen its various owners go through several tragedies over its 90-year history
Launched over 90 years ago, Creole -- the classic 63.03 meters schooner -- was bought by Maurizio Gucci, the last member of the family dynasty to run the fashion empire, in 1983. He bought it two years after his second daughter, Allegra Gucci, with Patrizia Reggiani was born.
In the upcoming documentary ‘Lady Gucci: The Story Of Patrizia Reggiani’, a criminologist, Cristina Brondoni, speaks about it as she said, “The Creole is a 65-meter wooden sailing yacht infamous for bringing the owners bad luck. Scene of mysterious deaths and suicides. Niarchos’ wife died aboard the yacht.” Even though Patrizia was happy about the purchase, she also said in the documentary, “The boat was cursed by Niarchos’ wife.”
What was Creole’s curse?
Creole was not always Creole since its birth. It was made by British architect Charles Ernest Nicholson and in 1927, it was given the name Vira at Camper & Nicholsons’ yard in Gosport, Hampshire. The beauty, labeled the world’s largest wooden sailing yacht with two generators, electric refrigeration, and central heating throughout her apartment-sized suites, began to show bad omens from its own naming ceremony as it took three attempts to break the magnum of Champagne on its bow.
But real problems started when its first owner, US carpet manufacturer Alexander Smith Cochran, found its spars too long and ordered it to be cut down by a few meters. The change made its look not so fascinating and Cochran tried several methods to make it look like it did earlier, but the workers overdid it and the ship became hopelessly tender, which left the immensely wealthy businessman frustrated and unhappy. He was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis and at the age of 55, he died.
South Coast yachtsman Maurice Pope became the second owner of Vira, who renamed it Creole. The new name was after a delicious dessert Pope’s chef made. In 1937, financier Sir Connop Guthrie, who had just been made a baronet, bought it from Pope. However, after the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Creole was temporarily given to the Admiralty by its owner, and its name was changed to Magic Circle. When in 1945, the time came to return to its owner, Guthrie was not there to receive it because he was dead. The ship’s condition worsened but Stavros Niarchos, a Greek shipping tycoon, spotted it in 1947 before it completely died. He returned the yacht to its original look and made it his floating home for long periods until a tragedy struck.
Niarchos was married to Eugenia Livanos for years with four kids. In 1970, the pair went on a holiday along with Livanos’ sister, Athina 'Tina' Onassis, to Spetsopoula, in the Aegean. On May 3, 1970, Livanos died due to an overdose of barbiturates. At the time, it was said she killed herself onboard Creole. A post mortem report then claimed that the woman had severe bruising on her body, which made Niarchos the prime suspect. However, later he was acquitted. Livanos' body was back from the mainland to Spetsopoula using Creole.
Following the tragedy, Niarchos discarded the ship and sold it to the Danish government for use as a sail training vessel for youngsters. But the maintenance cost was too much for the government and they sold it to Maurizio Gucci.
Maurizio was 35 when he owned it. At the time, he was on his way to lead the world-famous Gucci family fashion house. He was also happily married to the daughter of a Milan businessman, Patrizia, who was also mother to his daughters -- Alessandra and Allegra. Everything seemed happy and fine until it was alleged Maurizio purchased Creole by illegally diverting funds through a Panama-based company. A probe was launched. He became the headline of all Italian newspapers, though for a wrong reason. Corriere della Sera wrote “The Creole betrayed Maurizio Gucci” at the time and La Repubblica said, “Gucci in a storm over a dream yacht; arrest warrants issued”.
After several ups and downs, Maurizio, though, escaped jail, but his personal life became a mess. He was separated from his wife and lavishly spent money on Creole. But he did not enjoy the yacht for a long time since on March 27, 1995, he was shot dead. He was just 46 at the time. Things changed for the worse for the Gucci family as two years later, Patrizia was shockingly arrested for the killing of her husband. She was convicted and sentenced to more than two decades, but she served only 16 years behind bars.
Who owns Creole now?
After Maurizio’s murder, his daughters -- Alessandra and Allegra -- became the owners of Creole. As per reports, in recent years, the yacht’s role has changed and it's been used as a mothership to the other Gucci family’s classic, Avel, which is 18.3 meters long. Since Allegra is a serious sailor, she is mostly seen with her father’s memory onboard. “It’s like a small industry. A boat like Creole, in composite with double teak, needs maintenance — every year we take her out of the water for it. Black paint is not the best paint for a wooden boat, but Creole was born like this and we like to keep her that way,” the scion of the fashion dynasty with a degree in law, whose “first passion” has always been sailing on Creole, said.
Talking about the time when her father Maurizio bought the ship, Allegra said, “I think at the time it was a little bit crazy. We’re talking about the beginning of the 1980s, when there was not the knowledge we have now about restoring classic boats. And obviously Creole is not a normal classic yacht, she is an enormous classic yacht.”
Creole is with Allegra almost throughout her life and luckily, she has faced no hardship while being its owner. “Some of the best memories I have on Creole are the water fights that would suddenly break out on board. They would start as just a splash between me and my sister and by the end of it everyone would be soaking wet — owners, crew and officers. Quite often somebody ended up in the sea. It was great fun!” she said before adding, “Another great memory is crossing the Med, from Spain to France or to Greece. I remember the beauty of the dark sky, the silence of being in the middle of the sea in perfect conditions and enjoying the quiet and the magic of the night. I remember lying in the cockpit covered by towels to protect me from the humidity.”
‘Lady Gucci: The Story Of Patrizia Reggiani’ will premiere Saturday, March 20, on Discovery+.