Russian Billionaires, Russian Mob, You Can’t Make This Up!

What’s up with these Russian Billionaires!? Remember Mikhail Prokhorov, the Moscow tycoon, owner of the New Jersey Nets (NBA basketball) who threw his, ushanka into the ring to oppose Vladimir Putin for the presidency of Russia? No, you don’t remember him? It’s not your fault; his big announcement was two weeks ago. Who can remember that far back?

This week all the band width is going to a new pair of Russian Billionaires.Their names would be household words, if we could pronounce them.

Let’s welcome to the front page of the blogosphere, and to Central Park West, The Rybolovlevs!

The Rybolovlevs bought a piece of real estate this week, the penthouse at 15 Central Park West, to be precise. Actually, they bought the most expensive apartment in New York. Here’s their “official” announcement, via Forbes. (Billionairechonicles is still sulking because they didn’t the break the news with us.)

A company associated with Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of a well-known businessman Dmitriy Rybolovlev, has signed a contract to purchase an apartment at 15 Central Park West, New York. The apartment is a condominium currently owned by the Sanford Weill Family.
Ms. Rybolovleva is currently studying at a US university. She plans to stay in the apartment when visiting New York. Ms. Rybolovleva was born in Russia, is a resident of Monaco and has resided in Monaco and Switzerland for the past 15 years.”

Weill is the infamous, former Chairman of Citibank. He and his wife, Joan, bought the apartment for $43.68 million in 2007 and “flipped” it to The Rybolovlevs for the asking price of $88 million.

Most Expensive Apartment In New York

The Most Expensive Apartment in New York, sold by Sanford Weill and Joan Weill to Ekaterina Rybolovleva

Click here to see Observer’s Slide show of New York’s Most Expensive Apartment

On Friday, Laurie Bennett had piece, also in Forbes, in which she described a new TV show that sounds like it could be “a little bit inspired” by the sixties series, “Green Acres”. It’s about a Russian Billionaire and his college-aged daughter. (No mention of the mom, but those of us in the know, know that she’s not around because Mr. and Mrs. Russian billionaire are working their way through a contentious, $billions-in-dispute, divorce.) The Forbes piece even suggests that Mr. Russian Billionaire might become BFF’s with another Russky Billy, “who loves basketball and wants to run for president of Russia.”

In reality, well at least in “show business reality”, it’s just a question of time before we see a Martin Scorsese or David Chase directed, HBO series, based on the lives of these characters. Seriously, these Russian bad boys all make Tony Soprano, and Nucky Thompson, and even Don Corleone, seem like a bunch of penny-ante pussies.

“Well-known businessman Dmitriy Rybolovlev”, is not just some dull Russian guy who studied to become a doctor and decided to specialize in finance. He was only four years out of medical school (1994), when he joined the board of directors of Russia’s largest potash producer, Uralkali. In 1996 he became chairman of the company. In that same year he was arrested for the 1995 murder of his business colleague, Evgeny Panteleymonov.

According to

Panteleymonov tried to convince Rybolovlev to stop cooperating with commercial structures controlled by criminals. In September 1995, Panteleymonov was shot, and six months later the murder organizer Oleg Lomakin (Prokop) was arrested. In exchange for the promise of investigators to classify the charge to a lighter article, he said that Rybolovlev “ordered” Panteleymonov. There was no other evidence linking Rybolovlev with the murder apart from the testimony by Prokop. After a year of arrest, Rybolovlev was released on bail; later the court acquitted him.

Last month, Russian Billionaire Alexander Lebedev punched former Russian Billionaire Sergei Polonsky, during the taping of a Russian TV talk show. Lebedev later defended his two clean shots to Polonsky’s head. Prior to being sucker punched by Lebedev, Polonsky had said he felt like “punching someone in the face”. After “the bout” Lebedev said, “I’m not a fan of such behaviour, but sometimes if you are threatened verbally and physically you have to neutralise the threat to the best of your ability, without harming the other person.” Lebvedev is the owner of the English Newspaper, The Independent. According to Forbes 2008 List, Polonsky had a net work of $1,2 billion, however, in March of 2011 Bloomberg reported
Polonsky said he’s quitting business after his property developer went bankrupt.
Polonsky’s Mirax Group, which started building what was planned to be Europe’s tallest skyscraper before the global financial crisis in 2008, was dissolved by its board of directors yesterday, the company said on its website.
The extent of Polonsky’s remainig wealth, or lack thereof, is undermined.

Click Here to See the Action

Billionaire Lebedev punches Fomer Billionaire Polonsky

Billionaire Lebedev punches Fomer Billionaire Polonsky

In other more sinister Russian Billionaire news; Exiled Boris Berezovsky, who now lives in London, is suing fellow Russian Billionaire, Roman Abramovich for $6.8 billion. Bloomberg reports that “Berezovsky is claiming that “Abramovich intimidated him into selling shares in two Russian companies for less than they were worth. Abramovich argues Berezovsky never had stakes in Sibneft or in aluminum assets which eventually became part of United Co. Rusal, rather that he was paid for providing protection in the dangerous environment of Russia after the collapse of communism.”
The case is one of the biggest trials in Brittish legal history. wrote

Abramovich admits that cash payments were made to his former mentor, but says this was just protection money, a necessary business expense at the time to benefit from Berezovsky’s political capital.
Both men have disclosed damaging details of their own during the hearings, as a way of trying to humiliate each rival even more. Abramovich even passed off one payment to Berezovsky as an artificial transaction, freely admitting it was a way around the money laundering regulations. As for Berezovsky, he claims his stake in Sibneft – their company – was 25 per cent, but has been forced to come clean about how for several years he took much more than that, sometimes even more than the company’s own profits.
It is this sense of lawlessness that Abramovich’s lawyer will emphasize in the closing statement of his defense, reports RT’s Ivor Bennett. He has already likened 1990s Russia to medieval England and it is that get-out clause both are using for their previous misdeeds. The difference is Abramovich is using it also to show that legitimate business simply did not exist at that time.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently acknowledged that fact in his recent televised Q&A, in which he said that this trial should be held in Russia, because that is where the money was stolen from, and that is where it should be divided.

The Independent reported

The Chelsea Football Club owner, Roman Abramovich, has unleashed his most withering personal attack yet on his former business associate Boris Berezovsky, almost three months into the £3.5bn trial between the two men.
At the beginning of two days of closing submissions at London’s Commercial Court, Mr Abramovich’s barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC, called Mr Berezovsky an “angry and embittered man” with “truly prodigious powers of self-deception”.
Berezovsky is not the only one who has “issues” with Abramowitz. The London Times reported that
Alexander Korzhakov has told the court that Mr Abramovich’s acquisition of the oil group Sibneft in a state auction in 1995 was corrupt and unlawful. “With this money was bought Chelsea Football Club, palaces and the biggest private yachts,” he says.
Mr Korzhakov is a former KGB general who ran Russia’s security services in the early 1990s and has accused Mr Abramovich and Mr Berezovsky of conspiring to cause “huge economic and political damage” to the Russian state. He wants the $13 billion that Mr Abramovich made from selling Sibneft in 2005 to be returned to Russia.

Korzhakov is currently a member of the Russian Parliament. He was a close aid to Boris Yeltsin, and was seen standing next to him when Yeltsin made his historic speech on top of a tank, after a coup attempt against him failed in 1991.

The London Times also noted that

Mr Abramovich’s solicitors, denied that there had been any breach of Russian law in acquiring Sibneft. They dismissed Mr Korzhakov’s letter as containing several inaccuracies and said that it was irrelevant to the proceedings.

According to The Independent

The Chelsea Football Club owner, Roman Abramovich, has unleashed his most withering personal attack yet on his former business associate Boris Berezovsky, almost three months into the £3.5bn trial between the two men.
At the beginning of two days of closing submissions at London’s Commercial Court, Mr Abramovich’s barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC, called Mr Berezovsky an “angry and embittered man” with “truly prodigious powers of self-deception”.
Meanwhile, two other former Russian billionaires, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, are serving long sentences for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Amnesty International has declared them to be “prisoners of conscience”
Brittish authorities want to extradite Andrei Lugovoy from Russia. They believe that he is responsible for killing Litvinenko. Last month, according to the Times,
A court in London was told that for almost a decade, the former KGB officer was entrusted by Mr Berezovsky and his right-hand man, Badri Patarkatsishvili, to “carry out many covert surveillance and other sensitive tasks relating to Mr Berezovsky’s personal and romantic life, and even his medical affairs — liasing for him with doctors and the like”. The tasks included recording, at Mr Patarkatsishvili’s orders, a meeting between Mr Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich at Le Bourget airport in Paris in December 2000.

It gets better. Last month reported that Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili’s widow, Inna Gudavadze, were defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit, brought by Patarkatsishvili’s New York lawyer, Emanuel Zeltser. Zeltser’s suit has been compared to the civil suit brought by the Goldman family against O.J. Simpson. details a dinner meeting between Berezovsky and Zeltser that took place in London in March of 2008, shortly after Patarkatsishvili mysterious death. (Patarkatsishvili was 52 at the time.) According to,

Zeltser stood up and suddenly felt a bit dizzy. Berezovsky offered the services of his chauffeur and Rolls Royce Phantom for Zeltser’s trip to the hotel. After sliding into the back seat, which was separated from the front by tinted glass, the lawyer slipped into a state of semiconsciousness. He would later believe he had been drugged. Soon the car pulled up beside a private jet at a small suburban airport.

A few hours later, the jet landed in Minsk, Belarus. Zeltser was seized by men and driven to a former KGB prison where he would spend the next 16 months. He was finally released after Hilary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin intervened on his behalf.

In 2003 The PBS series Frontline did a segment called “Rich in Russia”. It profiled the new Russian Billionaires. For “Rich in Russia” Frontline filmed an interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Five days before the program aired, Khodorkovsky was thrown into prison, and has been there ever since.

Khordorkovsky Interviewed on frontline

Khordorkovsky Interviewed on Frontline

Berezovsky, already exiled to London, was also interviewed for the same documentary. He offered some candid remarks as to how one went about becoming a billionaire, after the fall of the Soviet Union. As Berezovsky explained, “The Soviet bureaucrats didn’t believe that capitalism would prevail. You would give an official $10,000, and he would give you the property title. Not for one second did he expect the property to stay private. He was convinced that The Reds would return and take it back.” He justified the behavior that enabled him to become one of the richest men in the world. As he put it, “we didn’t break any laws, but if you considering giving bribes a crime, then all oligarchs were criminals.”

Berezovsky on Frontline

Berezovsky Interviewed on Frontline

Click here to see “Rich in Russia”


Mark Cuban Says Entrepreneurs Have to Kick Their Own Asses

Billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of The Dallas Mavericks, or as he likes to remind folks, “The World Champion Dallas Mavericks”, says it’s “part of every entrepreneur’s job is to invent the future”, it’s what he calls “kicking your own ass”.

In his book “How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It”, Cuban presents an example of a company (one that he is working with) that asked its customers what features they wanted, and then delivered those features to its customers. That turned out to be not such a smart idea.

As Cuban explains, “its competitors didn’t ask customers what they wanted. Instead, they had a vision of ways that business could be done differently and, as a result, better. Customers didn’t really see the value or need until they saw the new product. When they tried it, they loved it.” Then ironically, when Cuban’s company asked its customers a second time, what features do you want, they told them that they wanted the new features that the competitors were offering!

Of course Cuban doesn’t recommend that companies should just stop listening to their customers. Instead he suggests, “Your customers can tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy. Listen to them. Make them happy. But don’t rely on them to create the future road map for your product or service. That’s your job.”

mark cuban says entrepreneurs should kick their own asses

Mark Cuban Says Billionaires Should Kick Their Own Asses, photo source

Mark Cuban considers buying The Dodgers

Billionaire Saudi Prince Buys a Piece of Twitter

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, The world’s richest Arab, has invested $300 million in Twitter. Is Alwaleed’s uncle is King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Forbes estimates Bin Tala’s wealth at close to $20billion, which puts 26th on their World’s Billionaires List.

Bin Talal is also the second largest shareholder of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The $300 million that Bin Lalal invested in Twitter is believed to have bought him a 3.75% stake. So that would put the value of Twitter at around $8billion.

Saudi Prince Buys Piece of Twitter

Saudi Prince Buys Piece of Twitter

Photo source TimesLive

The Guardian reports

The prince has a wide range of media interests, including a 30% stake in a publishing business that runs influential Arabic language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, and has plans to launch a new Arabic news channel that aims to challenge established players such as al-Jazeera.

The Wall Street Journal noted that

The investment by a Saudi prince in a social-media site that has served as an outlet for Middle East and North Africa dissidents throughout the Arab Spring alarmed some, who feared politically and socially conservative Saudi Arabia might thereby wield a chilling influence on free speech on Twitter.
But Prince Alwaleed’s relatively small stake in Twitter isn’t likely to have such influence. Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo has frequently said the company is “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

Novell vs Microsoft $Billion Suit Ends in Mistrial

All twelve jurors thought that Microsoft was guilty of “anti competitive behavior”, and eleven jurors were convinced that Novell had been harmed by Microsoft’s anti competitive behavior. However, because of one juror who had doubts as to whether Novell was actually damaged by it, the case was declared a mistrial.

If Novell wants to keep its lawyers’ meters running, they can ask for a new trial, with a whole new jury. Of course, there’s nothing to stop the two parties from trying to reach a settlement on their own., which has been providing excellent coverage and analysis of the trial, predicts that Novell and Microsoft will at least make an attempt to settle the case out of court.

Here’s what Groklaw had to say about it.

And that is what I expect (referring to a settlement) is most likely, actually, since Microsoft didn’t get the breezy win it seemed to expect even with a judge who seemed to rule for them whenever he could. However, Novell has other options, which it will no doubt consider after it has the opportunity to speak to the jurors. You’ll see headlines all over the place that the judge “dismissed” the case against Microsoft, but that isn’t accurate information. He dismissed this jury, ending this version of the case. It’s a mistrial. Normally, absent a settlement, there will be a retrial with a new jury. Nobody won, and nobody lost. So it starts over. And considering each side has spent millions already, settlements do sometimes follow hung juries.

KSL TV interviewed Corbyn Alvey, “the holdout juror”. He was reluctant to call the world’s second richest person a liar, but on the other hand, if you listen to Alvey’s testimony, it’s clear that he (and the other eleven jurors) did not believe Gates’ testimony. As he put it, ever so politely, “it seemed like there was a disconnect, there wasn’t a matchup.” Alvey suggested that “it’s been 17 years, he could have forgotten.” Said Alvey, “his testimony wasn’t matching up with emails he had written in 93, 94, and 95.”

Holdout Juror in Novell vs Microsoft

Holdout Juror in Novell vs Microsoft

Novell was seeking damages from Microsoft in excess of $1 billion.

Click here to Read more about Bill Gates testimony

Novell lawyer tells jury Bill Gates lied.

Click here to read Groklaw coverage

Facebook is suing Mark Zuckerberg, Seriously

As the LA Times notes – – “No, this is not a headline ripped from the Onion”. Facebook is not suing its Gazillionaire founder. The Mark Zuckerberg they’re going afer, is an Israeli who was formerly known as Rotem Guez.

The not-the-guy-who-owns-Facebook Zuckerberg had a pretty successful “Like Store”. If an advertiser wanted instant fans they could buy them from Guez’s “Like Store”. \\
Well Facebook didn’t like Guez’s “Like Store”, so they shut it down.

So Guez changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg, and then Facebook sued him. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg. not-the-guy-who-owns-Facebook Zuckerberg, at least for now, has a Facebook page with 3,000 likes!

Facebook Suing Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Suing Mark Zuckerberg

Click here to see the not-the-guy-who-owns-Facebook Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. (Hope the link still works.)

Gates Lied About Word Perfect, Novell Attorney Tells Jury

“He wasn’t telling the truth”, Novell attorney Jeff Johnson told the jury on Tuesday; referring to Bill Gates’ testimony in which Microsoft’s chairman vehemently denied charges that Microsoft had unfairly denied access to the software that would have enabled Novell’s release of WordPefect and QuattroPro, to coincide with that of Windows 95. Novell is seeking damages of $1.3 billion, and that amount could be tripled under anti trust law.

Novell is alleging that Microsoft was deliberately targeting Wordperfect and QuattroPro, when it decided to deny outsider programmers access to “extensions”. Gates testified that the extensions were “trivial and unimportant — hardly worth his time”. Johnson told the jury “Mr. Gates’ testimony won’t withstand even casual scrutiny,” Johnson was trying to convince the jury that Gates himself, decided to try to stall Novell’s release of its then top selling Wordperfect and its popular spreadsheet, QuattroPro. Gates’ motive, according to Johnson, was to give The Micorsoft Office Suite a head start in Windows 95.

Microsoft attorney David B. Tulchin told the jury that Novell “showed you not one document in which Novell complained to Microsoft”, referring to the denied extensions.

Groklaw, which has excellent coverage of this trial wrote

If they were not shown any such document, it isn’t because there isn’t any evidence of Novell objecting to Microsoft tactics at the time. Novell presented an internal Microsoft email from Satoshi Nakajima dated October 10, 1994, about hiding IShellBrowswer, and it’s in the Comes exhibits here at Groklaw’s collection, #2158 [PDF]. I don’t know if the jury was allowed to see it, but you can. The judge apparently is being rather stingy in what he’ll allow the jury to hear. Novell motion to reopen the case, which he denied, is found on this page, #307 [PDF]. While you are there, you might want to look at #306, and the exhibits to #306, including a 1995 letter from Robert Frankenberg, then at Novell, to Bill Gates, regarding antitrust concerns over APIs.

Groklaw has been critical of presiding judge, Frederick Motz. They wrote

I confess I have been disturbed by reports of this judge’s conduct at this trial, but the thing about juries is that they are not predictable. So, we’ll see. Maybe they feel the same way I do about the judge. But one thing is for sure, whoever loses will almost certainly appeal.

Final arguments were completed on Tuesday, and the jury began their deliberation on Wednesday. Yesterday, Deseret News reported “Jurors in the billion-dollar Novell-Microsoft antitrust case are apparently wrestling with a number of questions, including what a “hung jury” means.”

Click here to read full coverage of Novell vs Microsoft

More about Bill Gates testimony

Read what Bill Gates has in common with Tony Soprano

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