11 Aug 2008

New Record House Price

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Villa Leopolda, Villefranche-sur-Mer

Charles Bremmer reports from Paris, in the London Times, that Russians are not only gobbling up real estate in the Republic of Georgia. Let’s hope they overpay just as much for that Caucasian real estate.

A mysterious Russian billionaire has trumped his big-spending rivals and broken a world record by splashing out €500 million (£392 million) 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.

Mrs Safra was said to have held out for months as the buyer raised his bid for the villa, between Nice and Monaco, which King Leopold II of Belgium acquired in 1902.

The previous record for a house was said to be the £57 (JDZ: reported as £117) million that Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, paid for a property in Kensington Palace Gardens in 2004. The macho spending contest by Russian oligarchs. …

Russian excess is feeding discontent among poorer people. Pierrette, a housekeeper for one Russian, said: “I attended a party where the guests had fun throwing burning €500 notes into the air while everyone split their sides laughing. The domestic staff were later told to collect the ashes. It was sickening.”

House photos.

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