Don't Laugh - Russian Sub For Sale
VANCOUVER (CP) -- For Sale: One Russian submarine. Serious bidders only.
Don't laugh. This isn't an early April Fool's joke.
It's one of accountant Jonathan McNair's responsibilities. He has been fielding calls from across North America as he tries to sell the boat.
Receivers are trying to sell the Cold War-era Foxtrot U-521 sub, moored since 1996 on the shores of the Fraser River about 20 kilometres east of central Vancouver in suburban New Westminster.
For three years, the boat has had a non-military mission: tourist attraction.
Now the 91-metre long boat is being sold by the firm of Wolrige Mahon Ltd. to recover debts on the operation that led scores of visitors through the 1971-built boat. "We're not listing a price," said McNair. "There's no easy way to get a fair-market value for this thing. There's no black book the Russian government puts out or anything like that," he said. "Basically, it's worth whatever it is to whoever is buying it."
That price depends on what a buyer can earn from the boat.
"If one person thinks they can make Y dollars in revenue and another person thinks they can only make X dollars in revenue, they're going to come out with different prices they will offer," said McNair.
The Foxtrot ended up thousands of kilometres from home due to the collapse of Communism. A group of Vancouver investors was able to buy the diesel-powered sub from the Soviet government. They used a tug to haul the sub to British Columbia. Then they moored the boat beside a mall, cleaned up the inside and led hundreds of people through the interior for a peek at one of the workhorse subs of the Soviet fleet.
The Foxtrot was built in 1971 and decommissioned in 1993. But now the company that ran the operation has run aground, said McNair, and faces financial woes due to problems with a similar operation in Florida. They went bankrupt in February. There are total liabilities of about $1.2 million for the operation. McNair is setting an April 30 deadline for sale.
Calls have come in response to newspaper ads -- one in Saturday's Vancouver Sun proclaims: For Sale by Receiver -- One Russian Submarine.
McNair is planning to run an ad in the west coast edition of the Wall Street Journal early next month. A marine broker has posted an ad on the internet. "We've had a lot of interest from what we consider to be real parties, and real players," he said.
They include a Pentagon staffer who called McNair on behalf of some friends interested in buying the boat as a tourist attraction.
So far, McNair has mailed out 130 packages across North America to museums and other tourist operations, whose representatives have called.
He expects the boat will be sold to some North American operation because it would be too difficult to haul the sub to the Atlantic. McNair has sold various items, but never a sub. "It's very difficult to determine what a fair market value is for this thing," he said. "In the end it will go to the highest bidder.
"What that bid will be -- your guess is as good as mine."