Prokhorov Denies Bid For French Mansion
Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man, said Monday that he never planned to buy a French mansion owned by Lily Safra, the widow of banker Edmond Safra, denying media reports.
«There was and is no deal» to buy Villa Leopolda, Sergei Chernitsyn, deputy chief executive officer of Prokhorov's Onexim Group, said by e-mail. «These are the games of realtors on the Cote d'Azur.» The London Times reported Monday that Prokhorov backed out of a preliminary deal to buy the French Riviera property for 500 million euros ($633 million), leaving his lawyers to seek the return of a 39 million euro deposit.
Prokhorov will not invest in France until the government apologizes for arresting him, Chernitsyn said. French police arrested Prokhorov in Courchevel in January 2007 on suspicion of hiring prostitutes and then let him go three days later, citing a lack of evidence.
The 43-year-old investor, who owns stakes in aluminum producer United Company RusAl, investment bank Renaissance Capital and Polyus Gold, has a fortune of $14.1 billion, Finans magazine said last week.
Built by Belgium's King Leopold II in 1902, the 8-hectare mansion overlooks Cap Ferrat, near Nice. The property is said to be so vast that 50 gardeners labor daily to maintain the grounds, which include 1,200 orange, olive, lemon and cypress trees. After being used as an officer's hospital during World War I, the mansion was taken over by the Agnelli family, the founders of the Fiat industrial empire, and hosted celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan. It later fell into the hands of Safra, a Lebanese-Jewish banking magnate who died in 1999 in a fire set by his male nurse that was deemed to be arson.Prokhorov isn't the first connection the mansion has had to Russia -- it was used as the home of a character named Boris Lermontov in the 1948 film «The Red Shoes.»