Loud and lavish pre-wedding cruise for Indian billionaire Ambani angers locals in Italy

Loud and lavish pre-wedding cruise for Indian billionaire Ambani angers locals in Italy

Residents and businesses in Portofino and Genoa have been left fuming as the Italian cities were shut down and people kept awake by unruly guests attending a pre-wedding bash for the younger son of India’s richest man.

Mukesh Ambani was celebrating son Anant’s engagement to Radhika Merchant, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, on a four-day luxury cruise from Palermo to the south of France and back with stops in Rome, Portofino, Genoa and Cannes for a series of parties.

The wedding is on 12 July, but celebrations started with a pre-wedding celebration in Ambani’s hometown of Jamnagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, in March, where he reportedly spent $150m on a three-day gala for over 1,200 guests that featured bejewelled elephants and a performance by American singer Rihanna.

The cruise was the second pre-wedding bash and it set sail on 29 May. It stopped at Portofino on 1 June for a party titled La Dolce Vita, meant to capture the spirit of an Italian summer.

Despite a strict no-phones policy, videos trickled out of the bash, revealing that American band Backstreet Boys and singer Katy Perry were part of the entertainment hired for the celebration, to which at least 800 were invited.

But the bash rubbed Portofino locals and businesses the wrong way as access to the entire bay was blocked, preventing residents and other tourists from being able to visit.

The picturesque village has long been a haunt of celebrities looking for an idyllic location for their weddings — Australian singer Sia and reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian both had their weddings here — but it has never been shut down before for any event.

Nearly a dozen restaurants were offered between €7,000 and €10,000 to cater the event which was to have focaccia, paneer tikka and beetroot goat cheese kebab, reported The Times.

However, Andrea Miroli, manager of the celebrated eatery Il Puny, which has served the likes of Denzel Washington, Steven Spielberg, Sir Elton John and Silvio Berlusconi, said they were asked to serve lobster sandwiches and only informed 20 days before the event.

“We were offered €10,000 just 20 days before the event,” Andrea Miroli told The Times.

“I find this offensive, bad mannered and incorrect. I have my customers and an illustrious history to protect.”

Residents and tourists complained on social media about not being able to access areas in Portofino.

“Many other celebrities and billionaires have celebrated in Portofino, none of them have ever removed access to the main point for others,” one user complained on X.

“Many billionaires have come to party here, but no one has ever taken away access to the main part of the city. Who do they think they are? They can’t just come in, throw their party, and make it difficult for people to do their daily chores.”

“I couldn’t see the main attractions of Portofino this weekend due to a private event organised by an Indian or Pakistani billionaire for his spoiled son. There have been many events hosted by billionaires in the past, but none have ever closed the area,” a tourist in the area at the time posted.

While events of this magnitude are usually considered a good thing by local entrepreneurs, as they bring brisk business, the Ambani pre-wedding bash won no favours.

“As a local tour guide in Portofino, it is disheartening to see our city closed for a private event. Our livelihood depends on tourism, and this weekend was a huge setback,” a local guide said.

Genoa too was affected by the raucous nature of the party as the cruise ship pulled into the port city early on Sunday, 2 June, with speakers blaring out loud music.

Residents complained to local police who did nothing even though they were called at 4.30am, reported Italian website Il Secolo.

“The behaviour of the organisers was absurd. They kept half of Genoa awake with the high, unjustified volume for most of the night before it stopped at dawn,” said a local firefighter. “What’s worse is the coast guard did nothing, despite being called at 4.30am.”

Mukesh Ambani is Asia’s richest man with interests in oil, retail and telecommunications and several other sectors.