JR Ridinger, a billionaire, is the CEO of Market America and Shop.com. His Utopia IV rammed and pierced the hull of the 160-foot Tropic Breeze tanker, which was transporting marine and oil gas amid the islands.
The loaded tanker sank in the water off the coast of New Providence Island.
Another passing superyacht was able to rescue the crew of the Tropic Breeze. By the following morning it was clear that all of the crew of the tanker had made it safely off and were accounted for. Apparently, though, there were injuries.
Utopia IV Escorted to Wharf
JD Ridinger’s boat was also damaged. It did not sink, but it took on water and was escorted to Prince George Wharf by the Harbour Patrol Unit.
SuperyachtNews.com ran a video on the collision on Christmas Eve. The correspondent did not then know the name or nature of the vessel that the superyacht had struck at the time of this first posting. He called it simply (and inaccurately) a “fishing vessel.”
The Utopia IV was well-known in the world of superyachting. For example, in May 2021 Boat International did a feature: “On board with the owners of the 63m luxury charter yacht Utopia IV.” The story enthused about the Ridingers’ yacht’s “custom-made sculptures and guest quarters, including the owner’s stateroom with its platform bed, Jacuzzi and private balcony.”
The day after the collision was Christmas Day. SuperYachtNews provided an update on its initial story. It was clear by this time that the boat that was struck was the Tropic Breeze, not a fishing vessel. The SuperYachtNews correspondent said that the Tropic Breeze was 30 years old and made of steel.
That last point was an important detail because the initial report had passed along a witness’ suggestion that the sunken boat may have been made of wood. This would have helped explain the accident, since wooden vessels can escape detection by radar.
It turns out, though, that the accident remains unexplained. An investigation is underway.
The Tropic Breeze was hit on the side but toward the stern, and it sank quite quickly. It is not thought that environmental damage is likely. Maritime Management, the company that owns the tanker, said that the “non-persistent materials [LPG, marine gas and automotive gas] … Are lighter than water and will evaporate if exposed to surface air.”
It is unclear if Ridinger was on board at the time of the collision.
Maritime Management told the local Caribbean National Weekly: “The catastrophic force of the collision pierced the stern of the tanker, sinking the tanker to the ocean floor to an estimated depth of 2,000 feet.”
Who are the Ridingers?
In 1992, Ridinger and his wife, Loren Ridinger, founded Market America. It is a “multilevel marketing firm,” that is, it sells the right to participate in selling its products along with the products themselves.
Over the years since, Market America has sold auto-care products, electronics, apparel, water filtration systems, and much else, through affiliations with outside companies. A critical article in Bloomberg once said that the products are “almost interchangeable with what you could find in your local CVS or Duane Reade for half the price.”
In 2001, JR Ridlinger purchased all outstanding shares of the company, taking it private.
In late 2010, Market America bought internet shopping firm Shop.com.
In August 2021, JR Ridinger and Market America announced a partnership with a publicly traded financial technology company, Sezzle. That has allowed it to add flexible payments, the “Buy Now, Pay Later” system, to Shop.com.