Australia’s Most Pugnacious Billionaire Says He’s Building a Titanic Replica

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Eleven years ago, Australian mining billionaire Clive Palmer traveled to New York and unveiled his legacy project: a full-scale replica of the Titanic that he pledged would sail from Shanghai to Southampton by the end of 2016.

“It’s going ahead, no doubt about that,” Palmer insisted. “Most things that I say I do, I do.”

In this case, not so much. The project was sidelined in 2015 due to reported financial issues; in 2018, Palmer revived the project, but the second attempt fizzled out, too.

This week, Palmer announced his third bid to build the ship, and he projected total confidence.

Speaking at the Sydney Opera House, he dismissed questions about his credibility as “bullshit,” according to The Guardian.

“It’s a lot more fun to do the Titanic than it is to sit at home and count my money,” he added. “All you need to be happy, I’ve found in my life, is to have someone that loves you, somewhere to sleep at night, and enough for a good meal.”

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Palmer has previously expressed excitement about joining the ship on its voyage, declaring at his 2013 press conference that he intended to ride in third-class, where passengers hosted freewheeling, raucous parties, as depicted in James Cameron’s 1997 film.

“I'll enjoy it. I'll be looking forward to banging the drum and doing the fiddle, and all those sorts of things… that Leonardo did in the movie,” he said.

Palmer conceded this week that he still has not finalized the logistics, including which shipyard will construct the boat. He said he expected the project to begin in 2025, and that it would sail to New York two years later.

Palmer, worth an estimated $4.2 billion, according to Forbes, said the project might cost well above $500 million. He shrugged off those numbers, telling journalists he has “enough money to build the Titanic 10 times over.”

Palmer is known for making bold—and at times unsubstantiated—statements. He sparked backlash in Australia at the height of the pandemic for stirring doubts about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, including by paying for full-page newspaper ads and distributing flyers.

“It made me really angry, to be honest,” Member of Parliament Patrick Gorman told The Daily Beast at the time, “because Clive Palmer is someone who has just tried to insert his way into national debates for his own business interests or because he has vendettas against various people.”

Palmer has spent heavily to influence Australian politics. His United Australia Party spent more than both of the country’s major parties in the run-up to the 2022 elections; virtually all of UAP’s donations came from his company.

In addition, the billionaire has warred directly with the Australian government and regional officials. He is suing the government for $200 billion over a longstanding mining disagreement, and in 2022, he and the former Premier of Western Australia were forced to pay each other damages over a defamation dispute.

The question with the Titanic, as with many of Palmer’s other declarations, is whether he can be taken at his word.

“He’s got this sort of ridiculousness about him as well, a bit like Boris Johnson,” Benjamin Reilly, then a professor at the University of Western Australia, told The Daily Beast in 2022. “You never know if anything that he’s actually doing or saying is serious.”

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