The owner of Sequoia, the classic 104-foot (32-meter) Trumpy that has served a dozen U.S. Presidents, is suing a company that provided a loan for maintenance and repairs. He’s alleging “a dastardly plan to wrest control of the Sequoia” and “overwhelming avarice.”
Sequoia’s owner is Gary Silversmith, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and developer. He acquired Sequoia, which was built in 1925, via the Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group in 2000, after she was put up for auction. Sequoia was the official U.S. Presidential yacht for 50 years, but she was sold in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. He believed she was too lavish for both him and the economic crisis at the time. Sequoia entered private hands, and she even gained National Historic Landmark status in 1987. Unfortunately, the owners in the late 1990s could not keep her up. Silversmith spent substantial sums upon acquiring the megayacht to restore her and offer her for charters out of D.C. Even though Sequoia was no longer officially the Presidential yacht, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, and Bill Clinton all used her on occasion for official business.
The lawsuit, filed last week, accuses FE Partners of deliberately withholding part of a $5-million loan and then wrongfully claiming Silversmith defaulted. According to court documents, Silversmith struggled to continue maintaining Sequoia when the economic crisis hit. In July 2012, he came to terms with FE Partners, a U.S. corporation owned by Indian business moguls, the Timblo family. The Timblo family has interests in mining, media, hospitality, and shipping. The deal allowed FE Partners to buy Sequoia for $13 million if Silversmith wished to sell, as well as to buy her for just $7.8 million if Silversmith did not repay the loan. In the lawsuit, Silversmith states that FE Partners was required to provide $3.9 million as an initial loan installment, but only handed over $2.5 million. Silversmith further alleges that it was done on purpose, to guarantee he would be unable to fulfill his obligations.
The lawsuit adds that FE Partners subsequently sent several statements claiming different things. These include Silversmith reportedly failing to pay off some debts, being late in making payroll, and letting guests take prostitutes aboard Sequoia. (Silversmith denies all of the claims in the lawsuit.) FE Partners therefore wished to exercise the option to acquire Sequoia for $7.8 million. “Defendant’s actions are motivated by nothing more than overwhelming avarice and the malicious desire to wrest the Sequoia from Sequoia LLC for the benefit of the Timblo family,” the complaint claimed.
Richard Graf, a lawyer representing FE Partners, told Thomson Reuters that the lawsuit was “grossly inaccurate and without merit.” He added, “It is our intent to preserve the Sequoia Presidential Yacht—and other historically significant antique vessels—so that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy and appreciate these treasured American artifacts.”
A hearing has been scheduled for this week. We’re following the developments and will update this story accordingly.