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The Oceangate submersible Titan was lost in June 2023 en route to the wreckage of the Titanic. Debris has been found and the coast guard reported that the vessel catastrophically imploded, killing everyone on board.

Five people were in the submersible: Stockton Rush, the founder and chief executive of OceanGate Expeditions, which operated the vessel; Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer; another British businessman, Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman, from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who had been on more than 35 dives to the Titanic wreck.

Many news and social media shares have referred to this expedition as "billionaire tourism", but I am skeptical that any of the people involved were actually billionaires.

Hamish Harding

Sky News has referred to Harding as a billionaire.

Insider calls Harding a billionaire.

These sources refer to Action Aviation as Harding's source of wealth, a company that sold 30 aircraft in 2021 and owned four as of December 2022. I'm skeptical that this company is successful enough to propel anyone to billionaire status.

A Forbes article states

Harding’s exact net worth is unknown. Some British outlets, including the Telegraph, refer to Harding as a billionaire. However, Harding does not feature on Forbes’ list of billionaires.

Shahzada Dawood

CNN referred to the Dawoods as "a billionaire father and son duo".

PKBnews claimed that Dawood is "a multibillionaire" in 2021.

Distractify states that "it's safe to assume the businessman is worth several billion dollars as he comes from one of Pakistan's wealthiest families."

The Statesman reports $350 million.

Dawood's wealth seems to be intertwined with that of his father, Hussain Dawood, a chair on several large Pakistani companies.

No Dawood appears on Forbes's billionaires list.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet

Most incredibly of all, fresherslive claims that Nargeolet has a net worth of $1.5 billion, "through his notable career as the Director of the Underwater Research Program at Premier Exhibitions, RMS Titanic, Inc".

Several other sources including Yahoo have reported the same number, but it's difficult to track how many of them are making an independent report and how many are reporting on an article from another site (like Yahoo is).

Premier Expeditions went bankrupt in 2016, appears to have had maximum yearly revenues in the single digit or low double-digit millions, and had their entire collection of Titanic artifacts valued at $20 million in 2018. Nargeolet is not claimed to be a CEO or owner of this company, only a diver and director of the underwater program. I'm skeptical that this level of involvement with this size of company would lead to a wealth in the billions.

Nargeolet does not appear on Forbes's billionaires list.

Stockton Rush

The net worth of OceanGate's founder and CEO is also highly variable, with sources reporting between $12 million and $50 million, but none claim he is a billionaire.

Summary

Is there any credibility to the claims that there was a billionaire (or even multiple billionaires) onboard the downed Titan sub?

None of the five people involved appear on Forbes's billionaire list.

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    I have not downvoted this. I am concerned (a) that this is too broad - a 'No' answerer needs evidence for all five people, (b) that billionaire is a vague term and different sources may use different criteria, and (c) you seem to have already done the research - what is left for an answerer to add?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 24, 2023 at 2:55
  • The research is to establish what claims are being made. What's left is to determine whether any of the claims are actually true.
    – Brady Gilg
    Jun 24, 2023 at 4:49
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    Where is the claim that there was a billionaire onboard? Just because it was referred to as billionaire tourism doesn't mean it is making a claim that a billionaire is on board or billionaires are the only one going.
    – Joe W
    Jun 24, 2023 at 5:07
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    @pipe: Unfortunately, many (most?) people around the world find news about "billionaires" and "uesless celebrity trivia" more interesting. And in turn, these media outlets and their journalists knew they'd get more clicks/reads/views if they labeled the passengers "billionaires" and used terms like "billionaire tourism" (even though they had zero evidence that any of the passengers were "billionaires"). So I think this question is useful in calling out such poor practices by the media. (On the other hand, OP has already answered his own question so I'm not sure what more OP wants.)
    – user62611
    Jun 25, 2023 at 3:12
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    I am voting to close this as there appears to be no notable claim being questioned here. Just because it is classified as as billionaire tourism doesn't mean that billionaires will be on board or only billionaires will be involved. Billionaire tourism is just stating that this is something for the ultra rich which still includes people who are not billionaires.
    – Joe W
    Jun 25, 2023 at 18:48

2 Answers 2

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No.

None were on Forbes's April 2023 list of 2640 billionaires.

None of your cited articles that call any of the Titan's passengers a billionaire provide any sources. Sky News, CNN, Distractify, etc. are not exactly credible sources.

In contrast, Forbes provides its methodology. If you are skeptical of Forbes's list and whether that list is complete, then you should instead pose a question on that.

I can find no credible mention of any of the passengers being a billionaire before June 2023. All such mentions arose only in June 2023.

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    "by the definitions that are being used by Sky, Insider, Telegraph, etc." What definitions?
    – user62611
    Jun 24, 2023 at 9:27
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    Good question. I don't know. Forbes picks their favourite definition, but that doesn't mean that others can't use different rules. Which currency would be my first question (although if the Telegraph uses GBP, that would make stricter than Forbes' USD). How they deal with market valuations of shares would be another. This is a flaw with the question. The definition of billionaire is vague.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 24, 2023 at 14:56
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    @Oddthinking: The Telegraph, Sky, Insider, CNN, Distractify, etc. do not use any definitions. Their journalists just repeat what they see on other websites (like Wikicelebs.com) and equally low-quality media outlets.
    – user62611
    Jun 25, 2023 at 2:52
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    @user24096 Um, actually ... if we are willing to switch from US to other cultures regarding the currency, we must also distinguish whether a billion is 10^9 or 10^12 ... Jun 25, 2023 at 7:35
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    @user24096: Remember to be nice.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 25, 2023 at 9:23
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The term “billionaire” is sufficiently vague that this claim can be made true almost trivially. In particular the term isn’t linked to any particular currency. So if we take the 350 million USD for the net worth of Dawood as listed by the OP at face value, and translate this to his native currency of Pakistani rupee, we find that he is worth almost 100 billion PKR. So technically he was almost certainly a billionaire by some (not even too far fetched) definition of the term.

Note that at least one of the sources listed by the OP claiming that Dawood is a multimillionaire, PKBnews, is explicitly talking about net worth in PKR.

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