Tuesday 17 September 2019

Roman's empire:

Houses, jets, yachts, cars -- and now paintings. The oligarch may be gutted by Chelsea's loss in the Champions League final this week, but at least he has his new €75m worth of art to console himself with. Ciar Byrne uncovers what else he spends his money on

Ciar Byrne

The art

Roman Abramovich has been revealed by The Art Newspaper to be the mystery buyer who bought Francis Bacon's Triptych (1976) for E54m at Sotheby's New York last week, as well as splashing out E21m on Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), at Christie's.

Both works made auction history, the Bacon achieving the highest price for a postwar work of art and Freud becoming the most expensive living artist at auction, taking the title from Jeff Koons.

It is believed the Russian tycoon purchased both works to display at his London home. But his newfound interest seems to be inspired chiefly by his girlfriend, Daria "Dasha" Zhukova, who is opening a gallery in Moscow. The Centre for Contemporary Culture Moscow will open in September at a bus depot designed by Konstantin Melnikov, with a retrospective of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Amy Winehouse is reported to have been offered E1.25m to perform at the launch.

The properties

In the eyes of Abramovich, when it comes to homes, be they city pads, rural retreats or seaside getaways, you can never have too many.

The tycoon owns a country estate at Fyning Hill, near Rogate, West Sussex, which he bought for E15m in 1999 from the Australian media magnate Kerry Packer. The 420-acre estate includes a seven-bedroom house, two polo pitches, stables for 100 horses, a tennis court, a rifle range, a trout lake, a go-kart track, an indoor pool and jacuzzi and a plunge pool. He reportedly ordered in 20,000 grouse and pheasants to indulge his passion for shooting.

In 2004, he was reported to have added the Chateau de la Croë on the French Riviera to his portfolio for E19m. The 12-bedroom villa, on the exclusive Cap d'Antibes between Nice and Cannes, was once the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who held lavish receptions there. Built for an English aristocrat in Victorian style in 1927, the property sits next door to the Villa Eilenroc, built in 1867 by Charles Garnier, the designer of the Paris Opera. Previous owners include the Belgian King Leopold II, Aristotle Onassis and Greta Garbo.

Last month he bought Wildcat Ridge, a mansion near Aspen, Colorado, from Leon Hirsch, former head of the medical firm US Surgical, for E23m. The 14,300sqft house sits in 200 acres of land rising 1,000ft above Snowmass Village.

It was reported last month that Abramovich planned to build the most expensive private residence in Britain, a E180m mansion in Knightsbridge.

The football

In 2003, Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club for E190m and overnight went from being a relative unknown in this part of the world to one of the most scrutinised. He is reckoned to have invested some E625m in Chelsea with the aim of making it the number one club in the world by 2014, including building a new, state-of-the-art training headquarters in Surrey. He has made a series of controversial signings such as the Ukrainian striker Andrei Shevchenko, bought from AC Milan in 2006 for a British record of E37m, and Joe Cole, poached from West Ham for E8.2m.

In September 2007, the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, whom Abramovich had recruited, quit to be replaced by the former Israel coach Avram Grant, who narrowly missed out on the Premier League title before Wednesday's dramatic Champions League final penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United.

In 2004, it emerged that Abramovich also had links with the Russian side CSKA Moscow through the oil company Sibneft, in which he had a 73pc stake, which struck a three year sponsorship deal with the club.

The toys

The Russian billionaire owns a fleet of yachts, nicknamed 'Abramovich's navy'. His super-yacht, the 377ft Pelorus, has a staff of 40, a helicopter, helipad and a cinema. Worth E125m, it is usually moored in Malta -- Abramovich prefers to keep his boats in the Mediterranean, although he can sometimes be spotted in the Caribbean. His other yachts include the Sussurro and Ecstasea, while in 2006 he gave Le Grand Bleu to a business associate. According to reports, he will soon add the world's largest private yacht to his fleet, the 550ft, E250m Eclipse, which is said to have two helipads, six guest suites, five VIP suites and a 5,000sqft owner's cabin, as well as an aquarium, a disco, a spa and a half-indoor, half-outdoor pool.

Abramovich is also reported to own, not one, but two submarines. His first, a 118ft Seattle 1000, commissioned from the leading manufacturer US Submarines, cost E16m to buy and a further £1m a year to run. With two deck levels, separate living areas for guests and crew, dining rooms and staterooms, the boat is capable of diving to a depth of 1,000ft and can remain submerged for two weeks. He is said to have a second sub on order from US Submarines, a smaller 65ft Nomad 1000, which cost E3.7m and will dock on the Eclipse.

On land, Abramovich owns a £1m Ferrari FXX racing car, and in the air he has a Boeing 767, known as The Bandit thanks to the design on the cockpit. Originally a 360 seater, it was refitted with a luxury interior, including a two-level bedroom, a lounge, offices, a kitchen and crew area. It also has an anti-missile system.

The businesses

Abramovich, 41, is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of E15bn. Having sold his stake in the Russian oil company Sibneft to the state-owned energy giant Gazprom for E8.2bn in 2005, he is now the main owner of private investment company Millhouse Capital, which has diverse interests, including a 41.4pc stake of Russia's largest steelmaker, Evraz Group, and a 40pc stake in the UK mining company Highland Gold, which owns gold deposits in Chukotka, the state where Abramovich has been governor since 2000 (despite tendering a letter of resignation to Vladimir Putin, which was rejected).

The company also invests in real estate, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Reports that Abramovich recently invested in Neo Vita, Russia's first clinic for the super-rich in Moscow, have been denied.

The rest

In March, it was reported that Abramovich had bought the world's biggest drill for E110m. The machine has a 19m diameter, making it nearly 25pc wider than its nearest rival. The purchase immediately sparked speculation that the billionaire wanted to build a tunnel linking Russia and America under the 88km wide Bering Strait, connecting Chukotka, the frozen Russian region of which he is governor, to Alaska and realising Vladimir Putin's vision of a "WorldLink" tunnel.

In a more frivolous vein, Abramovich was reported to have spent more than E250,000 on a 16th birthday party for his daughter, Anna, at the London nightclub Paper, hiring top indie bands The Klaxons and CSS to provide the entertainment. The 500 guests enjoyed a flashing dance floor, a wind machine and alcohol-free cocktails.

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