Jeff Bezos gets a historic Dutch bridge dismantled so his $500 million yacht can pass

February 3, 2022, 10:41 AM UTC

The rich are different from you and me, as the writer Scott Fitzgerald once said. More proof (if any is needed) is a deal struck between Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos and officials in the Dutch city of Rotterdam to dismantle a historical landmark, so he can move his brand-new superyacht from the shipyard to the open sea.

In negotiations revealed this week, Rotterdam officials agreed to take apart (and later reassemble) the steel Koningshaven bridge that spans Europe’s busiest cargo port, and which has stood in place since 1927. That is in order for Bezos’s new 412-foot vessel—one of the biggest private yachts on the planet—to leave its construction site and set sail. The bridge is one of Rotterdam’s best-known local landmarks, called a “must-see” by one tourist on Tripadvisor.

It is a “must-remove” for Bezos, however. His vessel—estimated to cost about $500 million to build—includes three 229-foot masts, too tall to sail under the bridge, which has the height of a 13-story building and a clearance of 131 feet.

That meant the bridge, which locals affectionately call “De Hef,” or “the lever,” has to be temporarily taken apart sometime this summer and then reconstructed once Bezos’s yacht leaves town.

“On the one hand, economic importance, employment, due to the construction of this ship. On the other hand, our concern for De Hef,” Rotterdam spokeswoman Frances van Heijst told the Washington Post (which is owned by Bezos), to explain the thinking behind the decision. “We attach great importance to preserving employment,” she said, adding that the city would not cover the costs of removing and reassembling the bridge.

That was hardly reassuring to some politicians.

“This man has earned his money by structurally cutting staff, evading taxes, avoiding regulations, and now we have to tear down our beautiful national monument?” Stephan Leewis, a member of the Rotterdam council from the environmental party GroenLinks, told the local broadcaster Rijnmond, which broke the news on Wednesday. “That is really a bridge too far,” he said.

The deal also sparked anger among preservationists. “Jobs are important,” Ton Wesselink of Rotterdam’s historical society Historisch Genootschap Roterodamum told Rijnmond. “But there are limits with what you can and should do with our industrial heritage.”

Yet there are few limits, it seems, to what can be negotiated by a tech titan like Bezos, whose wealth grew by $5 billion last year to $195 billion, making him the world’s second richest individual after Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Last September, Bezos committed $1 billion to climate projects—including those focused on restoring the oceans.

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