Ex-Presidential Yacht Sequoia to Sell for $7.8 Million

The former presidential yacht Sequoia, which once plied the Potomac for executive parties, must be sold to a group backed by Indian interests for $7.8 million, minus loan repayments, a Delaware judge ruled.

Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group LLC sued FE Partners LLC in Delaware Chancery Court in February, alleging it wrongly attempted to seize the 104-foot, 88-year-old vessel in a dispute over a $5 million loan.

Judge Sam Glasscock signed a final order giving FE Partners the right to buy the vessel for $7.8 million minus deductions for loan repayments, administrative costs and legal fees. The yacht’s owner, Gary Silversmith, agreed to give up his fight to keep control of the vessel.

The complaint filed by Silversmith, a Washington-based attorney, “is dismissed with prejudice,” Glasscock said in today’s order.

FE Partners, based in Washington, includes members of the Goa, India-based Timblo family, which has mining and shipping interests, according to court filings.

The wooden-hulled Sequoia, a National Historic Landmark built in 1925, served as the official presidential yacht for 50 years before former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, sold the vessel in 1977 as part of an effort to trim expenses.

Silversmith sought the $5 million loan from FE Partners last year to help cover the Sequoia’s maintenance costs. Under the terms of the loan, FE Partners had the option to buy the vessel for $7.8 million under certain conditions, according to court papers.

Fabricated Offer

Silversmith said in the filings that while a Russian company had bid $20 million for the Sequoia, he had “no intention” of taking the offer. He alleged FE Partners only funded about half the loan and attempted to wrongfully seize the yacht on the pretext that he’d violated the agreement, according to filings.

Lawyers for FE Partners countered that Silversmith had destroyed and fabricated evidence in the case. The yacht owner disposed of computers as part of that campaign, the attorneys said in court filings.

In today’s order, Glasscock said Silversmith engaged in fraudulent activities to secure the FE Partners loan, including fabricating the $20 million offer from Russian businessmen involved in the country’s oil industry.

John Reed, a Wilmington, Delaware-based lawyer for FE Partners, said he was pleased the case is resolved and that it was “unfortunate the court had to be burdened” with the litigation over the vessel.

Michael Weidinger, a lawyer for Silversmith and the Yacht Group, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the order.

Nine Presidents

The Sequoia served more than nine presidents including Harry Truman, who was believed to have been on board when he decided to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, according to a history of the vessel on the Sequoia group’s website. President Dwight D. Eisenhower allowed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to use the yacht during a visit.

Truman once became so enraged during a poker game that he damaged a table with a cigar cutter, according to the Sequoia website. He later installed a piano in the main salon where he and Richard Nixon both played.

Nixon used the Sequoia on at least 88 occasions, often sailing down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon. During the Watergate scandal, he believed the vessel was bugged and demanded that an electronic shield be built around the entire yacht requiring small pinholes drilled six inches apart on the entire railing, according to the website.

President John F. Kennedy, the crew’s favorite, celebrated his last birthday on the yacht, according to the history.

The case is the Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group LLC v. FE Partners LLC, CA 8270, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).