Business Irish

Monday 11 December 2017

All aboard for Dr Smurfit's epic 80th birthday bash

The multi-millionaire businessman brought friends and family on the adventure of a lifetime, writes Niamh Horan

Dr Michael Smurfit pictured at his house on the K Club
Dr Michael Smurfit pictured at his house on the K Club
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Dr Michael Smurfit sailed into his 81st year in style with a week-long bash on board the superyacht the 'Golden Odyssey II' for over 100 close friends, family and VIPs.

The epic journey kicked off last week in Venice, as the multi-millionaire treated his well-heeled guests to a theatrical masquerade ball in the world-famous Belmond Hotel Cipriani.

Alexander Smurfit and Victoria Bonya in Venice
Alexander Smurfit and Victoria Bonya in Venice

Set on the Giudecca Island, guests enjoyed stunning views over the city from under grand chandeliers as they toasted the guest of honour.

After enjoying the gondolas and marble palaces of the ancient city, the group then set sale for Dubrovnik and Hvar island and sailed past Korcula and Kolocep islands on Croatia's Dalmation coast.

Next stop Montengro, the pearl of the Mediterranean, where guests enjoyed more sight-seeing, before preparing for yet another night of entertainment.

The week-long celebration, which reaches its grand finale this weekend in Corfu, included a gala black-tie night, a white-tie dinner, a fancy-dress night and an Irish-themed night.

Victoria Smurfit and Alistair Ramsden
Victoria Smurfit and Alistair Ramsden

Each night one of the guests gave a speech in honour of their host - a special video of his life and times proved the highlight of the week.

The party-goers included his son Alexander's partner, Victoria Bonya. The glamorous model, who has appeared on the covers of Playboy and Maxim magazines, began her career at 16 as a waitress in Moscow before going on to become one of Russia's hottest TV stars.

Ms Bonya cut a stunning figure, appearing in an off-the-shoulder white dress for the golden masquerade ball, while the handsome young Smurfit turned up in a pair of beige chinos, a crisp white shirt and tailored blue blazer.

On Dr Smurfit's arm was his long-time girlfriend, the statuesque Russian beauty and keen horsewoman Yana Melnikova.

Victoria Smurfit in Croatia
Victoria Smurfit in Croatia

She was wearing a navy and white sleeveless number to go with her black, white and gold mask, which was finished with sumptuous black feathers.

Dr Smurfit, who was previously married to Norma Smurfit and Swedish air hostess Birgitta Beimark, has been linked to a number of glamorous young women since both marriages ended.

But Yana, who is variously described in gossip columns as "gorgeous'', "leggy'' and "enigmatic'', has now been by Dr Smurfit's side for over a decade.

Meanwhile, his niece, actress Victoria Smurfit, was also part of the soiree, posting on her Instagram page that the party consisted of "stupid amounts of jolly".

Alexander and Victoria Bonya in masks
Alexander and Victoria Bonya in masks

The beautiful mother of three children from her marriage to Doug Baxter attended the holiday with her new boyfriend, film-maker Alistair Ramsden. The star of ABC's Once Upon A Time (as Cruella De Vil) met her new beau on the set of Bait, a film which she produced.

A source told the Sunday Independent: "Dr Smurfit is renowned for his parties and is never one to do things by half measures, so it's fair to say we have all been waiting for this invite for a long time.

"This week has been the type of week that dreams are made of. Everybody looked beautiful, everyone was in such good humour and Dr Smurfit was in exceptional form. The only question is how will his 90th top this?"

The Monaco-based multi-millionaire, a legendary party-giver, has earned a reputation as the best host in town, kicking off each decade of his life with panache.

For his 60th birthday, he brought 100 friends on a cruise around the Mediterranean, dressing for the main party in an exact replica of the uniform worn by General Patton at the Battle of the Bulge.

His 70th birthday bash was just as spectacular when he chartered a luxury yacht in the Med. The guest list included his friends Michael Fingleton, Bill Cullen and property developer Sean Mulryan.

For the festivities, he hired the boat - complete with marble-lined bathrooms and a golf simulator - to accommodate 120 guests and staff.

His own yacht, the Lady Ann Magee, is known for its opulence, sleeping 12 and featuring a Jacuzzi, sauna and a full-width master suite with mirrors on the ceiling, private study and his-and-hers dressing rooms.

In one well-known tale, when a Leinster rugby team was at a training camp in nearby Nice, Smurfit invited them on board for a party.

Bernard Jackman, the then Leinster hooker, said at the time: "It certainly gave us an insight into how the other half lives. Prince Albert came to the reception, which was of great interest to the female members of my family who read Hello! magazine.''

As Ireland's Honorary Consul, Smurfit enjoys a certain eminence in Monaco.

As well as putting in a few hours as a voluntary government representative, he still has many business interests, including the K Club and shares in a variety of companies.

Sunday Independent

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