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Steven Spielberg Just Sold His Prized 282-Foot Superyacht ‘Seven Seas’

The luxurious vessel was last listed for $160 million., rachel cormack.

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Seven Seas

It’s a wrap for Steven Spielberg’s superyacht Seven Seas .

The world-famous director finally sold his epic 282-footer last week to an unknown buyer, according to Merle Wood & Associates . Although the brokerage firm did not specificity the amount paid, the vessel, now known as Man of Steel , was listed earlier this year for $160 million . Thom Conboy of Denison Yachting represented the buyer, who is apparently a longtime repeat client.

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The blockbuster yacht, built by noted shipyard Oceanco to Spielberg’s exact specifications, first hit the seas back in 2010. The Academy Award winner, who has a net worth of $3.7 billion, spared no expense when designing his dream machine, and this is the first time it has been offered for sale.

Seven Seas

Of course, there is a cinema onboard.  Merle Wood & Associates

The glitzy interior, which was penned by Nuvolari & Lenard and Molly Isaksen, spans four decks and offers ample space for entertaining A-listers. The vessel can accommodate 20 guests across nine generous staterooms, as well as 28 crew. The scene-stealer is, of course, Spielberg’s owner’s suite, which features a full-beam stateroom with ensuite and dressing room, along with an office and a terrace with its own private jacuzzi.

Naturally, Seven Seas is brimming with amenities fit for film royalty, including supersized screens in every room and a full movie theater. Elsewhere, there is a sauna, steam room, gym, pool, huge beach club, helipad and countless lounge areas and bars. As expected, there’s also a fully-stocked garage packed with a tender, speedboat, water toys and diving gear.

Seven Seas

Seven Seas comes equipped with plenty of toys.  Merle Wood & Associates

Spielberg ensured Seven Seas lived up to her name, too. Over the past decade, the 74-year-old has taken the go-anywhere superyacht all across the seven seas. It’s been spotted sailing off the coast of France during the Cannes Film Festival, and, more recently, on the waters near Antigua and Barbuda. The yacht’s transatlantic capability comes courtesy of twin MTU engines packing 4,680 hp each. She can hit a top speed of 20 knots or cruise at a more leisurely 15 knots.

Now that Spielberg has called cut on Seven Seas , we are patiently awaiting his next marine masterpiece.

Check out more photos below:

Seven Seas

Merle Wood & Associates

Seven Seas

Rachel Cormack is a digital editor at Robb Report. She cut her teeth writing for HuffPost, Concrete Playground, and several other online publications in Australia, before moving to New York at the…

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  • Cars, Jets & Yachts

Does this 357-Foot New Yacht Belong to Steven Spielberg?

Oceanco is keeping details of the mammoth vessel’s owner under wraps.

By Irenie Forshaw

Steven Spielberg yacht

Oceanco is used to catering for the fabulously wealthy; earlier this year the Dutch shipbuilder delivered Jeff Bezos’s gleaming new ship , Koru. Now, the rumor mill is going into overdrive once again. This time, Steven Spielberg is reportedly the billionaire behind its newest yacht: Seven Seas.

Spanning 357 feet, the mammoth motoryacht isn’t as long as Koru – which scooped the title of the longest sailing yacht on the planet at 417 ft – but she does cut an impressive figure. This isn’t Spielberg’s first foray into the yachting world – the Hollywood director had his first ship (also called Seven Seas ) delivered by Oceanco back in 2010.

The original Seven Seas – whose name is inspired by Spielberg’s seven children – measured 282 feet and boasted an expansive spa , gym, beauty salon, and, of course, movie theatre. But the four-time Academy Award winner sold the ship to Canadian billionaire Barry Zekelman in 2021 for a cool $151m (the ship has since been renamed Man of Steel).

It seems Spielberg has caught the superyacht bug; the new Seven Seas is even bigger and more lavish than her predecessor. So, what do we know about the director’s latest ship? While Oceanco has remained relatively tight-lipped on the project, a few key details have emerged which we’ll dive into here.

[See also: The Best Luxury Yacht Builders in the World]

Who is building Steven Spielberg’s new yacht?

Spielberg yacht Seven Seas

The superyacht – previously known as project Y720 – was commissioned back in 2022 for a whopping $250m. She was built by Oceanco – the same shipyard that made Spielberg’s old boat in Alblasserdam, a town in the western Netherlands around 12 miles from Rotterdam. Omani billionaire businessman Mohammed al Barwani bought the luxury shipyard back in 2010 (he also owns Turquoise Yachts in Istanbul).

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Oceanco has an impressive track record when it comes to building jaw-dropping superyachts. As well as recently unveiling Bezos’s Koru, four years ago the shipbuilder delivered Black Pearl – a striking three-mast vessel which, at 350 ft, became the largest sailing yacht in the world at the time, and garnered attention for its cutting-edge eco-credentials.

What do we know about the design?

steven spielberg yacht

Oceanco collaborated with Dutch firm Sinot Yacht Architecture Design to build Spielberg’s new yacht. The project was overseen by Lateral Naval Architects, with the team carrying out an “extensive optimization process” to ensure Seven Seas met the highest performance standards (she is the first LY3-compliant yacht to feature a Marine Evacuation System).

Powered by twin MTU 20V 4000 M73L diesel engines, she is able to reach top speeds of up to 20 knots and weighs in at 4,444 GT. Her sleek steel hull, teak deck, and lightweight aluminum superstructure give her a graceful silhouette; this is certainly a yacht to turn heads.

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Considerably larger than Spielberg’s former yacht, Seven Seas 2.0 can host up to 14 guests across seven cabins (so there’s plenty of space for his entire family). There’s also room onboard for up to 30 crew, plus a gym, pool, spa, beach club, helipad and tender garage. Oh, and there’s a movie theatre too. Obviously.

The fourth largest project delivered by Oceanco to date, she was glimpsed for the first time in March 2022 being rolled out of the construction shed at the shipyard and was spotted in the Port of Gibraltar in early July.

How about the interiors?

Spielberg yacht exterior

It’s extremely unlikely we’ll get to see inside Spielberg’s new yacht anytime soon, but we do know the interiors onboard Seven Seas have been crafted by Beverly Hills-based designer Molly Isaksen (in a telling sign she was also brought in for the interiors onboard Man of Steel ).

While details remain sparse, Oceanco did reveal we can expect plenty of “natural materials and glass onboard, offering guests an unparalleled outward-looking experience”.

[See also: Twenty for 20: Innovative Yachts of the 21 st Century]

Photo of Irenie Forshaw

Irenie Forshaw

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The Incredible Features Of Steven Spielberg's $160 Million Superyacht

steven spielberg smiling

In 2021, the Seven Seas, the luxury yacht belonging to billionaire movie director Steven Spielberg, was sold to billionaire steel magnate Barry Zekelman after being listed for almost $158 million earlier in the year (via Bloomberg ).

Spielberg first commissioned the 282-foot yacht in 2010. The superyacht was designed by Oceanco, a luxury shipbuilding company from the Netherlands. If the name sounds familiar, this company has also recently built a superyacht for Amazon founder  Jeff Bezos . The Seven Seas was custom-made for the award-winning film director and has lots of amenities and high-end features. It's a powerful ship that can hit a top speed of 20 knots and a cruising speed of 15 knots. The yacht also has two MTU engines, which provide a walloping 4,680 horsepower each, according to Robb Report .

In the past, this yacht has been sailing all over and has been seen cruising off the coast of France during the Cannes Film Festival, and in the Caribbean near the islands of Antigua and Barbuda.

It's decked out inside

The Seven Seas has four spacious decks and plenty of room for relaxing and entertaining guests. It features nine cabins that can accommodate up to 20 people, plus 28 crew members. The owner's suite for Spielberg is gorgeous and has a deck with a jacuzzi, office, and private terrace. It also has a full-beam VIP stateroom on the main deck with several other cabins on the lower deck (via Robb Report and Superyacht Times ).

Designers Nuvolari Lenard and Molly Isaksen collaborated to create the boat's lush wooden-themed interior (via Architectural Digest ). As would be expected, a yacht as opulent as the Seven Seas is jam-packed with amenities for Spielberg and his guests to enjoy. Published photos of the Seven Seas show jumbo screens in every room and a home cinema onboard. You can also find a sauna, steam room, gym, massage room, lounge areas, bars, and a swimming pool. This yacht is so large it can even accommodate a helipad. Like other superyachts, it comes with the standard garage where you can fit speedboats, water toys, and diving gear.

Now that Steven Spielberg has sold his yacht, fans just have to wait and see if another mega yacht is coming in the future.

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Outspoken climate activist Steven Spielberg has taken delivery of his $250 million superyacht – Even longer than a football field, the diesel-powered 4,444 ton vessel has two swimming pools and, in all possibility, a plush movie theater and a helipad.

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Steven Spielberg Lists His Superyacht for $160 Million

Image may contain Steven Spielberg Tie Accessories Accessory Stage Suit Coat Clothing Overcoat and Apparel

Beyond his West Coast megahomes , Steven Spielberg also owns a 282-foot-long superyacht. The legendary film director bought it in 2010, but after a decade of ownership, Dirt reports that he’s putting his custom-crafted vessel, Seven Seas, up for sale with a high asking price of around $160 million.

The massive mansion-sized vessel was named after his seven kids and his former wife, actress Kate Capshaw. Built by Oceanco, it features four decks, 45,000 gallons of fresh water, and a 77,000-gallon fuel tank with a range of up to 5,200 miles, which is more than enough for a transatlantic trip. Apart from all the space and power, the yacht is equipped with a swimming pool, multiple spas, a total of 17 televisions, easy-to-control smart-home technology, and much more.

In order to operate things safely, the listing says it takes a crew of 28 people. When it came to design and decor, Spielberg called on the expertise of Nuvolari & Lenard and Molly Isaksen. Upon entering, there’s a wood-paneled common area that has elegant built-in shelves lined with books and even a bar set up with Guinness on draft.

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spielberg yacht photos

The moviemaker’s main suite is on the upper level with a private study, an extensive wardrobe, and a decked-out bathroom that’s bigger than most New York City studio apartments. Naturally, one of the standout amenities is the ship’s state-of-the-art screening room complete with plush sofas and a baby grand piano. Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention the one-of-a-kind views all around the Jaws director’s boat—though, of course, they are ever-changing.

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Steven Spielberg has sold his superyacht ‘Seven Seas’


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A Closer Look at Steven Spielberg's Yacht Seven Seas

Steven Spielberg's Seven Seas

Few names in Hollywood can compare to Steven Spielberg. The mention of this award-winning filmmaker’s name alone brings about memories of some of the industry’s best movies including Jaws, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, Lincoln, Ready Player One, and so many more. While we only know a few details about how Spielberg lives his private life, we do know that he owns a yacht—a superyacht at that. Called the Seven Seas , Spielberg’s yacht is the type that exists only in dreams. We’re going to head for the ocean to take a closer look at Spielberg’s yacht and what makes it incredible.

First off, it’s important to note that Spielberg’s yacht is worth about $184 million. That’s a lot of money, but it’s not that big of a deal for someone whose net worth is about $3.7 billion. Spielberg continues to add to that net worth, not only through making films but also through his yacht. Business Insider tells us that Spielberg actually opened up the doors to his yacht to allow anyone to charter it for a fee. We say anyone because even you can charter the yacht as long as you can afford the monthly fee of $1.2 million. If that fee is a little too steep for you, allow us to just indulge your senses by telling you why the yacht might be worth that much.

First off, it may sound ridiculous but people have insane amounts of money everywhere. And Spielberg can charter his yacht by that much because he is who he is. His superyacht is actually for sale, and it’s a good sales strategy to allow potential buyers to charter the yacht before purchase. This 282-foot long vessel was designed and built by Dutch company Oceano . The style of the yacht is sleek and elegant. Apart from its size, you can tell how luxurious it really is from its exterior design. The blue hull perfectly contrasts the white color of the upper deck platform. It’s simply a stunning view from any angle you take it in.

The Interior

Moving into the interior is a similar experience. Every single room inside the yacht is outlined with beautiful and rich wooden materials. The décor is exotic, eclectic, and equally luxurious. Every single room in the superyacht is larger than average rooms on land. But the room sizes aren’t the best part about the Seven Seas. When Oceano created this yacht, they packed it in with a number of amenities that only the rich could afford to have built. The Seven Seas has a gorgeous infinity pool, but it’s no ordinary infinity pool. This area is outfitted with a 15-foot dual-purpose glass screen that serves as a monitor for movies to be played on. After all, what’s a Spielberg yacht if you can’t watch movies on it? The infinity pool happens to also serve another luxury purpose: a helipad. The pool converts somehow just so a helicopter (maybe Spielberg’s) can come and go as needed. Other amenities in the yacht includes an indoor cinema with a screen larger than the infinity pool’s, a fully equipped gym that features an amazing panoramic view of the ocean, a fully functional spa for relaxation, and of course, a fully stocked bar for some libations.


The fun doesn’t end there at the Seven Seas. The yacht will also give you access to a lot of watersports options. As a guest on this yacht, you can have access to various watersports equipment such as snorkels, wetsuits, kayaks, sea bobs, water skiis, and so many more. For those seriously considering renting out this charter, you’d have to consider the accommodations first. The yacht needs 26 crewmembers to be fully staffed. The rest of the guest rooms can be occupied by up to 12 guests, plus Spielberg. While all the guest rooms are lovely and amazing, not all guest rooms are created equal. You could expect that Spielberg’s room happens to be the best, as it features a study room and a Jacuzzi among other special things. All of the guest rooms are fit to welcome some of Hollywood’s royalty including Leonardo di Caprio and actress Blake Lively.

When it comes to performance, only true power could pull a yacht of that size. The Seven Seas has an incredibly powerful engine that has a maximum speed of 20 knots. The superyacht cruises at 15 knots. It has a range of 15,000 nautical miles, and it’s outfitted with some of the best stabilizing mechanisms out there. Interestingly enough, Spielberg is actually prone to seasickness. In fact, he’s said a few times before that he’s actually not much of an ocean person. People have said similar things before only to have their minds changed by the ocean. It’s been rumored that the reason why Spielberg is chartering the Seven Seas is that he wants to sell it for a bigger yacht. Despite the seasickness, Spielberg has fallen in love with the ocean and the boating life. He wants more yacht space than what he’s got now, and we can only speculate that he’s probably looking to spend more time in it than he does now. After all, being in the ocean for a long time can begin to feel claustrophobic. It’s been rumored that Spielberg has his eyes set on a particular yacht that sails at about 300 feet. It isn’t much bigger than the Seven Seas, but it sure costs much more. The new yacht is said to cost $250 million, and it probably has even better amenities than the Seven Seas. For now, Spielberg is enjoying the superyacht he has now until it’s time for the next.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by  Lily Wordsmith

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Where Do the Obamas Stand on Joe Biden? “If President Obama Was All In, He’d Be All In.”

spielberg yacht photos

In the days after President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance , former president Barack Obama set aside time to do what Biden used to do for him as vice president: play devil’s advocate. Over the phone, Obama took on the tough-love advisory role, presenting different scenarios to Biden. Something in the conversation reportedly unsettled the current president, who has resisted calls to exit the race.

The attempted assassination of former president Donald Trump only heightened the incredibly tense political environment, and that question. Obama sought to be a sounding board for Biden, not a pundit. At a private White House lunch last summer, he met with Biden to air his views, dropping his signature calm; even then, Obama believed in the very real possibility that Trump could win. But it is becoming more apparent that the values Obama cares most about—not to mention his own legacy—hang in the balance. He sees the presidency as a relay race, which begs the question of whether he privately thinks it’s time for Biden to pass the baton. The progress that he wants for the country can be accomplished only with a Democrat in office. That Democrat does not have to be Joe Biden.

And then came the debate. As this story was in the throes of closing, old Democratic hands who had been reluctant to speak emailed and called me to register their angst. “The blame lies with Joe and Jill Biden. They set up this administration to be insular,” said one insider. “The nightmare of yesterday was not that Joe Biden gave a bad performance,” this person added, “but the problem is that he made it clear that voters were right to care about his age.” “A dumpster fire,” declares a Democratic strategist with experience in a number of presidential campaigns, who had already confessed “ my bed is wet ” before the debacle. After Biden’s ABC News interview meant to be damage control, David Axelrod, among Obama’s most trusted advisers in the White House, called Biden “dangerously out-of-touch.” George Clooney , who headlined a Biden fundraiser in June, along with Obama and Julia Roberts, turned to the New York Times opinion pages to say, “The Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe “big F-ing deal” Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

Obama, where art thou?

“The silence is deafening,” says Representative Mike Quigley , who knows the former president and who has called on Biden to bow out of the race. “If President Obama was all in, he would be all in.” The relationship between Obama and Biden is “very protected,” Quigley notes. “They keep their private life and their private conversations private. I think most people who would guess about this are speculating.” Donors are expressing worry, and, Quigley says, Democratic House members are reluctant to publicly call for Biden to exit out of respect. Plus, “People think wild thoughts: ‘If the next president’s a Democrat, will they not trust me?’ ” Obama, Quigley says, is likely “greatly concerned.” The Democratic congressman believes there are more Obama people “trying to encourage a change. But I’m not going to name names.”

There have been whispers about tension between 44 and his veep. Even prior to the debate, the Obama camp redirected on the topic of Biden’s advanced age and mental acuity in Vanity Fair ’s questions. “Of course there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic right now, but [Obama] remains hopeful as young people step up and lead. No matter the phase of his public life, his animating principle has not changed—his goal has always been to inspire others to get involved,” says Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to Obama.

Obama’s aides were not interested in providing insight into their boss’s thinking—they couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. Dan Pfeiffer, a top adviser to Obama in the White House and cohost of Pod Save America , does not touch the subject when I ask him whether his former boss wants Biden to step aside. But when I mention George Clooney’s New York Times piece and ask whether Obama had a hand in it, as some people have theorized, Pfeiffer says, “I know Obama pretty well, and I would be shocked if that was the case.” Whether Biden exits or stays, he says, at this point, “There are no risk-free options.”

The Obamas, with their tremendous cultural and political influence, could be the closers of this race. “If President Obama is saying something, people listen,” says one Biden aide, adding, “They have a healthy respect for each other’s talents.” A USA Today /Suffolk University national poll conducted in early May found 18 percent of voters cared “a lot” about Obama’s opinion on the election, and 14 percent said they felt the same about former first lady Michelle Obama. No other celebrity comes close. Not Taylor. Not Oprah. The party and the Democratic public who had been pinning their hopes on the Obamas’ combined megawatt star power to get an anemic Biden over the finish line are now looking to them for—what?—reassurance? Or maybe the hope of an eleventh hour endorsement of a new candidate? “The Obamas can expedite a reset,” says one Democratic consultant, “but they can’t win this for Biden.”

Obama is a powerhouse for Democrats—in many ways still the most important man in the party, especially as the current president’s stock crashes. This story was meant to be about how the Obamas have reimagined (and are enjoying) the post-presidency, and I reported over many months, but there is now a before and an after, a bright line requiring a whole new lens. By the time you read this in the print magazine, Biden may well have stepped down. Will the Obamas have hastened that to the country’s satisfaction or hindered it, leaving November to chance, and maybe to Trump?

For starters, Obama is the campaign’s most successful fundraiser outside of Biden, the first lady, Vice President Kamala Harris, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. In late March, Obama and former president Bill Clinton appeared with Biden at a reelection fundraiser in New York that raised at least $26 million. One can assume he would be as powerful if someone else steps up to bat.

For whoever the November ticket may be, whether Biden or Harris or anyone else, the more Obamas, the better—if not necessarily to the Obamas themselves, who have largely steered clear of constant Trump denunciations. The barnstorming will come in the early fall, when they believe that voters are really engaged in the election. “It’s like the cadence of a speech,” says the former president’s communications director Hannah Hankins. “You’re quiet at certain points and you’re loud when it matters most.” Obama’s major advocacy where politics are concerned has been getting younger generations involved and mentoring young politicians and community activists. “President Obama’s chief focus has been to build out the work of his foundation, whose mission it is to support the next generation of civic leaders,” Schultz says.

“Their legacy is going to be so much broader, not larger, because nothing is larger than serving in the White House for eight years, but broader than what they did in those eight years, because they have so much runway in front of them,” says Washington-based journalist Michele Norris, a close friend of the Obamas.

“Someone had told President Obama that the best job in the world is being a former president of the United States,” Valerie Jarrett, a close friend of the Obamas who was a senior adviser in the White House and is now chief executive of the Barack Obama Foundation, tells me. “I think he’s beginning to see that’s the case.”

One of Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s favorite lines of attack against Obama was deriding him as nothing more than a celebrity. McCain’s campaign ran a television ad that featured images of Obama, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton overlaid with audio of crowds chanting “Obama!” and an ominous voice-over: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world, but is he ready to lead?” Sixteen years later, Obama’s advisers still recoil at the mention of the combined star power of the former president and first lady. They think it cheapens what the Obamas have accomplished. But the couple’s global fame is undeniable, and nearly eight years after leaving the White House, in a political landscape characterized by both polarization and whiplash, they are still figuring out the most effective way to use it.

The Obamas consider Washington their home base. Roughly two dozen people work in their private office and are part of what aides often refer to as Obama-world. One aide describes it as “one office with two principals,” with staff divided nearly evenly between them. They have been leasing space at the World Wildlife Fund headquarters on 24th Street, about a mile from the $8.1 million 8,200-square-foot Kalorama house they moved into in 2017. (Their decision to remain in the capital after the end of his term made Obama the first president since Woodrow Wilson to do so.)

They don’t seem to care about pleasing politicos. Washington insider Susanna Quinn says that unlike the Obamas’ famously gregarious Democratic predecessors the Clintons, the Obamas were not concerned with socializing when they were in the White House, and they certainly do not care about it now, even though they’ve put roots down in the capital. “They never really connected to Washington socially,” Quinn says. “They stayed in their own world with original friends. It’s practical to stay here because you don’t have paparazzi like you do in New York and LA. Maybe it ends up in Politico if you go out to dinner, but that’s about it.”

When the first family was considering how they would approach their life after the White House, a source says, Michelle Obama sought advice from Laura Bush, who suggested that they get to work on whatever programs and initiatives they were planning before the completion of their presidential center, an ambitious public space slated to open in Chicago in 2026. It was advice they took to heart.

First, in 2014, they created the Obama Foundation, which oversees the still-in-progress Barack Obama Presidential Center, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, and the international Leaders program, a six-month development and community engagement program connecting young people with leadership tools as they take on issues like climate change, immigration, and racial equity. The former president likes interacting with young people more casually and relates to them as a fellow community organizer and mentor. One of Obama’s biggest interests is his My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. It’s a continuation of the initiative he created as president in 2014 after the killing of Trayvon Martin. Its goal is to create and expand educational and employment opportunities for boys and young men of color.

And the Obamas are using the media to shape the conversation. (Hillary and Chelsea Clinton formed HiddenLight Productions in 2020.) In 2018 their Higher Ground Productions—named after a favorite Stevie Wonder song—signed a deal with Netflix to produce content that would go on to include films and series—and in the following years, they struck deals with Spotify (since ended) and Audible, which is owned by Amazon. “They want to give a whole bunch of people a platform to tell their stories and make the world a little better, a little kinder, a little more empathetic, and a little smarter,” says Joe Paulsen, who was a personal aide to the former president in the White House and a frequent golf companion, and who now serves as head of business and strategy for Higher Ground. They tapped Nadia Hallgren to direct Becoming, which was her feature documentary directing debut. And they selected Dustlight, an audio production company led by a young female CEO named Misha Euceph, to produce The Michelle Obama Podcast and Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s Renegades: Born in the USA.

Alicia Keys hugs Michelle Obama at the 2019 Grammy Awards.

Higher Ground’s work has championed progressive messages and uses a different venue to continue their White House work. Obama won a best narrator Emmy for Our Great National Parks, which highlights the need for conservation of natural resources; Waffles + Mochi is about healthy foods for children. The company’s first release, American Factory in 2019, won the Oscar for best documentary feature in 2020.

Obama recently narrated the four-part limited series Working: What We Do All Day, which profiles workers on different rungs of the economic ladder, and he makes the occasional cameo. “We may not think about it, but we’re all a part of something larger than any single one of us—and our work is one of the forces that connects us,” Obama intones. “And when we make sure that everyone feels their work is respected…we reinforce the trust between us that makes everything in our lives possible.”

Unlike most of his work, however, the show was met with mixed reviews. Time pointed to an unevenness in the storytelling and a lack of accountability in the episode about CEOs at the very top of the economic ladder. “The tone is reminiscent of Democratic Party stump speeches that note the suffering of the poor, working, and middle classes but rarely get around to holding anyone responsible for creating these conditions or effecting change.”

The Obamas’ insertion into our daily lives through media is complicated if they are trying to move away from the world of celebrity because, of course, it only furthers their place as global celebrities. “Meghan and Harry are copying what the Obamas have put together,” says Tracy Sefl, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton. “The difference with what the Obamas have done so far is their understanding of their audience. Barack sitting down with the Boss [Bruce Springsteen], well, that felt interesting and creative. But, also, of course he did. ”

“Something about the Obamas continues to have a certain allure, sometimes even more so globally than in the US because they don’t have the baggage of our politics,” says Ben Rhodes, who was Obama’s deputy national security adviser in the White House.

Like most celebrities, the Obamas are never in one place for long. Washington may be home base, but they also have Martha’s Vineyard, Chicago, and Hawaii. They bought an $11.75 million 6,892-square-foot mansion on 29.3 acres in Edgartown, Massachusetts, and are reportedly involved in developing a property worth at least $8.7 million on the island of Oahu—though it remains unclear whether they own it. They have also held on to the red brick Georgian-style Chicago home they’ve had since 2005.

Shortly after they left the White House, the Obamas appeared in photos on some luxurious headline-grabbing trips, including a stop at billionaire Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, where Obama famously went kitesurfing; a trip aboard David Geffen’s yacht; and a stay on the late Marlon Brando’s small private atoll near Tahiti. The Obamas have spent time with Clooney and his wife, Amal, at their Lake Como villa, and hung out in Barcelona with Steven Spielberg before a Springsteen concert where Michelle Obama and Kate Capshaw sang backup as Springsteen and the E Street Band performed “Glory Days.” Some people thought the Obamas deserved a break after eight years of unmatched scrutiny and pressure; others were predictably less generous.

“I’m glad he’s having a nice time—America is on fire!” quipped HBO host John Oliver.

When Trump was president and the country was becoming more and more polarized, “everyone wanted him back in the fray,” says Schultz. “Democrats wanted a savior, Republicans wanted a foil, and members of the press wanted clicks.” But the Obamas were going to wait for key moments to speak up. Rhodes, who is currently a senior adviser to Obama, recognizes the frustration on the left. “I have friends that want Obama to speak out more on whatever crazy thing Trump is doing.… I actually think he has a greater megaphone when he does choose to speak out because he’s not popping off on Twitter about it and doing a bunch of interviews.”

He sees himself as a unifier, and he considered his main job to be bringing the party in line behind the nominee at the end of the 2020 primary. He was publicly neutral until that April, when he made a 12-minute video endorsing Biden.

In that election, behind the scenes, Obama helped nudge members of his party to support Biden and had a series of conversations with Biden’s progressive challenger, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Together the Obamas—the former first lady’s reputation as “the closer” makes her just as valuable a campaigner as he is—proved their restrained strategy was still effective.

It is, of course, easier to stay above the day-to-day political fight as a former president. Per an adviser, Obama does not read the intelligence briefings provided regularly to former presidents—except to Trump, whom Biden barred in 2021 because of his “erratic behavior.” (Although the adviser doubts their value in the first place. “Do you know any former president who actually reads them?”)

Melania Trump could not compete with Michelle Obama’s popularity even if she wanted to. Michelle Obama left the White House with a 72 percent favorability rating, according to the Pew Research Center. Compare that to her impenetrable successor, Melania, who left at a historically low 42 percent, per a CNN/SSRS poll. Unlike the Trumps and even the Bushes, Michelle Obama is central to what the Obama name is building. (And she’s dominating on Instagram, where she has 57 million followers and her husband has 36.3 million.)

“I think the Clintons are co-CEOs and the Obamas are costars. They’re all stratospheric celebrities. Hillary’s got business, she’s got work. Michelle is costar of all things Obama, Hillary’s co-CEO of all things Clinton,” says Sefl. “It’s equal billing in their post-presidencies.”

Obama’s style evolution, notably the $3,900 over-the-knee Balenciaga glitter boots she wore while promoting Becomin g in 2018, put a spotlight on the constraints she was under as first lady. (Remember her controversial decision to cut her bangs?) Like most first ladies, she wanted to make an impact that went beyond her fashion choices, so she self-edited. Can you imagine the reaction if she had worn those boots to a state dinner?

“Michelle Obama had to be the most perfect first lady that ever was,” says Jarrett. “She knew that the spotlight was on her every single minute of every single day,” she tells me. “The younger generation was watching, and she wanted to make sure she did right by them and right by our country. And that was eight years of a lot of pressure…. This is somebody who has been an A-plus performer her entire life. The political world was really challenging for her in that way because it’s not fair and it’s not based on merit.”

Out of the White House, she has been able to be herself.

Sefl saw Obama speak in front of a massive San Francisco crowd. “Few people can be so natural, so authentic, and so electric all at the same time,” she says. “You cannot look away from Michelle Obama.”

Last year Gayle King hinted at a question she already knew the answer to: Would Obama consider running for office? “I am authentic,” the former first lady replied. “If I were going to engage in politics, I would let people know.”

She has been clear that she never wants to run for president, but the right has used her to scare Republican and independent voters—many of whom hate the idea of a Black woman in the Oval Office (look at their reaction to the idea of a President Kamala Harris). Inside the White House the rumor was barely discussed. “Everybody knows how laughable it is,” an Obama adviser tells me. “That’s the last thing she would want. Oh, my God.” Amid the Biden crisis, Michelle Obama is polling 11 percentage points ahead of Trump—well beyond any officeholder whose name has been mentioned.

Around the Super Bowl, Donald Trump Jr. posted a photograph to his Instagram (with 7 million followers) of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland with these words superimposed on it: “I found this rare Michelle Obama rookie card.” Nasty racist and sexist slurs have long bubbled up in conspiracy theories trumpeted by the right. Her aide tells me that “it happens so often, it’s almost heartbreaking.” While the former first lady’s office won’t issue statements about conspiracy theories because they believe it only gives them oxygen, it does affect Obama on a personal level. As an aide says, “She’s a human being.”

Deesha Dyer, whom the Obamas named as their social secretary in 2015, thinks that while her former boss will be more and more “real” as time goes on, Michelle Obama still feels the sting of her critics. “As somebody who worked for them and watched them be attacked, it doesn’t hurt any less for me to see it. I have nieces and nephews growing up in a world with people like that and it makes me angry. She’s probably not over it, it could hurt a little bit less, but it’s still there. We’re all human.”

In Becoming , her blockbuster 2018 memoir, Obama notes her unique place in the American story: “I carried a history with me, and it wasn’t that of presidents or First Ladies. I’d never related to the story of John Quincy Adams the way I did to that of Sojourner Truth.”

On the flight with the Obamas from Joint Base Andrews to California after Trump’s inauguration, Jarrett saw Michelle crying—tears shed from “sheer exhaustion and an enormous sense of relief.”

Like her husband, she is continuing to work on issues she cared about as first lady. Her Let Girls Learn initiative in the White House promoted girls’ education globally, and in 2018 she launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance, part of the Obama Foundation, designed to educate and empower adolescent girls around the world. Since its creation it has raised and distributed funds to more than 130 grassroots organizations in more than 36 countries to support girls, from scholarships to leadership development programs. In 2022 Obama joined forces with two other female powerhouses and girls advocates—Melinda French Gates, who recently separated her own work from that of the foundation she once co-chaired with her ex-husband, Bill, and Amal Clooney, cofounder of the Clooney Foundation for Justice—for an event in support of the Girls Opportunity Alliance’s Get Her There campaign. They also announced a coordinated effort between their organizations to advance gender equality and end child marriage.

Barack Obama and George Clooney on a boat in Lake Como

Her nonpartisan initiative When We All Vote was created in 2018 with the goal of getting more young people and people of color to vote. In 2020, 512,000 people either started or completed the voter registration process with When We All Vote. During the midterm elections in 2022, 90,000 people registered to vote or confirmed they were registered to vote with When We All Vote either online or at events. The former first lady recruited celebrity A-listers as co-chairs, including Steph Curry, Jennifer Lopez, and Tom Hanks.

But there is an everlasting hunger for gossip. In April 2023 Obama told Gayle King on CBS Mornings, “Marriage is hard, and a lot of young people quit on marriage over things that are just a part of the commitment. We’ve been married for 30 years.… If I fell out with him for 10, and we had a great 20 years, I’d take those odds anytime.” In a May interview on the same television show, the former president opened up too, saying, “It sure helps to be out of the White House, and to have a little more time with her.”

She was always a straight shooter about the imbalance in relationships. In 2004, when her husband was in the race for the US Senate, she told the Chicago Tribune: “What I notice about men, all men, is that their order is me, my family, God is in there somewhere, but me is first. And for women, me is fourth, and that’s not healthy.”

Michele Norris reminded me of a 2007 Maureen Dowd New York Times column, “ She’s Not Buttering Him Up ,” that criticized Michelle Obama for ways that she tried to humanize her husband during their first presidential campaign. Dowd found fault with what she said at a fundraiser in New York when she teased her husband for not “putting his socks actually in the dirty clothes.”

“This princess of South Chicago,” Dowd wrote, “a formidable Princeton and Harvard Law School grad, wants us to know that she’s not polishing the pedestal.” That kind of hypercriticism is why, according to Norris, she had to be “superhuman” when she was first lady. Now, as a former first lady, she bends over backward to say she’s just like you.

Her straight talk is not surprising to the people who know her well. She has a famously close and loyal circle of female friends who keep her grounded. They include Jarrett and Norris, whose husband, Broderick Johnson, was assistant to the president and secretary of the cabinet under President Obama. She is also close with Chicago turned DC friend Kelly Dibble, and to the poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Obama talked candidly about race before she became first lady. She told 60 Minutes in 2007, when her husband was a presidential candidate: “As a Black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station.”

She admires the way Laura Bush approached being first lady with quiet restraint. But that was never really who Bush was, either. “After nearly eight years of hypervigilance, of watching for the next danger or tragedy that might be coming, I could at last exhale; I could simply be,” the former first lady wrote in her memoir, Spoken From the Heart , about the relief she felt leaving the White House. Obama could relate.

During debt ceiling negotiations last summer, a source says, Obama and Biden commiserated about the Groundhog Day nature of the battle. (Obama faced a similar crisis in 2011.) The phone conversation may have also allowed Obama to check on the octogenarian president. That day Biden had taken an embarrassing fall when he tripped on a sandbag onstage at the Air Force Academy commencement. Biden was going to need Obama to attest to his fitness for the office. Now, more than ever, “you need to strike at the right time for key surrogates to be useful,” a Biden aide told me, before the debate. “You don’t want to waste them, and a year is a lifetime in politics times five.”

Eric Lesser started working on Obama’s 2008 campaign before he graduated from college and went on to work as a West Wing aide. But he couldn’t win the Democratic nomination to be lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 2022, even after scoring a photo op with the former president at the Obamas’ home in Martha’s Vineyard. Still, Lesser, who served four terms in the state Senate, says he believes that the Obamas’ combined star power is unmatched.

“[George W.] Bush left with his tail between his legs with a massive economic crisis and two disastrous wars,” he says. “By contrast there is an immense reservoir of goodwill for the Obamas. I was in barbershops and VFW halls and Fourth of July parades across the communities I campaigned in and visited, and over a long period of time—eight years—it was clear the admiration people have for him. And it’s transcended party identification. I had Republicans who admired how he raised his family and the character and the dignity that he brought to the office.”

So many presidential traditions—things that aren’t written in stone but have become quasi-sacred—were trashed the moment Trump stepped into the Oval Office. A fatal breach of the US Capitol, two impeachments, and countless “unprecedented” moments later—including Trump’s conviction on 34 felony charges—and the Obamas are holding firm to the idea that their brand of politics can thrive, even amid Trump’s brand of red-hot fury. “I’m still the hope guy,” Obama has said without a trace of cynicism.

On the rare occasion when Bill Clinton would stop by the Obama White House, Jeremy Bernard, who was the Obamas’ social secretary from 2011 to 2015, remembers Clinton giving him a hug and introducing himself to his staff, who were “amazed.”

Clinton once told Bernard that Obama wasn’t “good at the easy stuff, the mixing and mingling.” “Obama was more focused on the job and didn’t know who all was in the room. They haven’t changed, they have a close-knit group,” Bernard says. That includes pre-presidency friends from Chicago like Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, and DC pals like Dr. Sharon Malone, an ob-gyn who specializes in aging and menopause, and her husband, Eric Holder, who was attorney general in the Obama administration and the first African American person to hold the office.

Bernard was on the receiving end of complaints from high-dollar donors who wanted to know why they hadn’t received more invitations to the White House. “For me, President Obama is what I really want in a president, his policy and most of what he stands for are right in line with what I feel as a progressive Democrat.” But being his social secretary could be a “fucking nightmare.”

Bernard sees how the escalated number of threats made life even more difficult for Obama. “When I worked there the Secret Service was so much more cautious, even when walking to the Oval,” he says, then goes on to describe a private lunch at the Trump White House hosted by Rickie Niceta, Trump’s social secretary . “I was supposed to go in the west gate and I ran into some folks from the residence and I told them I couldn’t walk in with them. But the Secret Service said, ‘Come on in.’ That wouldn’t have happened during the Obama years. It was more heightened security. You go through the gate you’re assigned to go through.”

As we’ve seen over the past few years, political violence is a frightening reality in our country. Bernard recalls that once he was in the Rose Garden showing the first lady different options for table decor ahead of the state dinner for German chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011. “I was walking out with her and President Obama walked out of the Oval to come take a look, and I saw the Secret Service getting more and more concerned. The first lady said, half joking, ‘Barack, get back inside. Look how nervous they are.’ She knew they weren’t prepared for him to step outside and walk into the Rose Garden.”

For now, the Obamas are looking toward the big picture and their legacy. They remain unflinchingly optimistic about the future long-term. To many political observers, however, short-term optimism would require a hefty dose of magical thinking.

On the question of whether Trump will be invited to the opening of the Obama Presidential Center—living presidents, current and former, are front and center at these things—Obama insiders just laugh and say the guest list isn’t drawn up yet. But one Obama veteran recognizes the inevitability of the question. “People are good at pretending the decision doesn’t need to be made because there’s no issue,” this person says. “But everyone knows that there’s an elephant in the room.”

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