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”


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