The Russians Are Coming, The Russians …

I have written a few times about how the Russian oligarchs’ money is re-shaping the art market.  I am also aware of their influence on the London housing market.  But this is amazing:

A mysterious Russian billionaire has trumped his big-spending rivals and broken a world record by splashing out €500 million (£392 million, $700 million plus) on one of the most sumptuous villas on the French Riviera. The price of the Villa Leopolda, a Belle Époque mansion on the heights of Villefrance, has amazed estate agents but fuelled local worries that the invasion of Russian money on the Côte d’Azur is getting out of hand.

Since the early 1990s, Russian oligarchs, drawn by memories of the Riviera-mad old Russian aristocracy, have been piling into seaside properties at Cap Ferrat, Cap d’Antibes, Saint-Tropez and the other great playgrounds. None, however, has come near the price with which the unnamed Russian clinched the Leopolda deal with Lily Safra, the widow of Edmond Safra, a Lebanese banker who was killed by an arsonist’s fire in Switzerland in 2003 … Its turreted mansion and two guest houses sit in 20 acres of grounds with hundreds of olive, cypress and lemon trees tended by 50 gardeners. Former members of the Israeli special forces are said to ensure Mrs Safra’s tranquillity there …

Jean Pierre, a high-end agent, said: “It’s completely surreal and we are really uneasy. We don’t dare any more to propose any price below €100 million for these clients. Anything below and they throw you out…and you should see how they do it,” he told Le Parisien … Jean-Marie Tarragoni, a Nice property manager, said that the Riviera market had gone mad. “Two hundred people are completely destabilising it. These Russian oligarchs have thrown themselves into a bidding war like Onassis and Niarchos.” Rivalry between Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos sent local prices rocketing in the 1950s.

I’m not even going to try to figure out how many families that sort of money would feed for a decade.

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