The Monitor (Kampala)

Uganda: Ezra's Latest Toy

column

The phenomenon that is Michael Ezra continues to grow, and so does the mystery.

Daily Monitor has learnt that the 34-year-old tycoon has ordered an Airbus A380 (Prestige) private jet and reportedly paid a mind-boggling $260m for it.

Ezra is currently in the French city of Toulouse, the home of Airbus, where he made the payment on April 30th. David Velupillai, Airbus' Marketing Director for Executive and Private Aviation, confirmed that the French aeronautical giants had embarked on building a private aircraft for Mr Ezra.

"We have met with Michael, have had discussions with him and come to a preliminary agreement," an initially reluctant Velupillai told Daily Monitor yesterday.

Supply is limited yet there are many orders, so people have to wait," Velupillai added on further prompting. "We never reveal the details of individual deals, all I can say is that the least price for an Airbus A380 is $320m. However, it is different for private customers."

Mr Ezra's plane is expected to be ready in 2010. And after it has been fully built, the customer will then incur an extra cost believed to be around $150m for an executive plane interior to be developed, bringing the total cost of jet to a whooping $410m. With space of 531 square metres, the A380 is the largest commercial airliner in the world built to carry 525 people in the standard three-class configuration, or 853 people in an all-economy setting.

The A380s ordered by commercial airliners have been late by several months to take to the skies due to production delays, but modifications for private ones are going on. For instance, the interior of Mr Ezra's plane will be built to have an office, full satellite communication equipment, a conference room for 12 persons, a karaoke room, a movie room, a gymnasium, medical centre, four self-contained VIP bedrooms, another four executive bedrooms, as well as a spa.

The lower deck of the aircraft, which is reserved for cargo in passenger airliners, will have living quarters for flight attendants and enough space to ferry as many as three saloon cars while staying within its take off weight of 560 tonnes.

Ezra is reportedly only the second person in the world to place an order for an A380 to be used as a private jet. The only other order was from Saudi Arabian Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, the fifth richest man in the world who was supposed to build a five-star hotel where Shimoni Demonstration School once stood in Kampala.

Ezra's plane, which is likely to be registered in Dubai where he does most of his business, will have a total flight life of 140,000 hours or 25 years and will be able to fly between Dubai and New York, a distance of about 16 hours, without re-fuelling.

It's not the first time Ezra's exclusive lifestyle has left Ugandans in a spin. In September 2006, he paid $250,000 (Sh450 million at the exchange rate then) for an exclusive Centennial Mont Blanc watch, the only one of its kind in the world. It was part of an Emirates charity promotion to help disadvantaged children of the world.

In September last year, the tycoon flew by private chopper from Nairobi to catch Uganda Cranes' final Africa Cup of Nations match with Niger. He rewarded the team with $100,000 (Sh180m) for winning that game, even if they didn't qualify for Ghana 2008.

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