The latest popular acquisition for Russian oligarchs is professional sports teams.
Now, we figured this behaviour was basically because the oligarchs had nothing else left to buy. (There are only so many boats, houses, planes, helicopters, cars, companies and islands one man really needs.) Also, owning sports teams is fun (great seats, free entertainment!), lucrative, and cool. And it’s a common asset in many billionaires’ arsenals of babe magnetry. So what’s not to love?
Well, all of those factors presumably play a role in the oligarchs’ decision-making, but we recently heard some scuttlebutt that there’s another consideration at work.
Namely, we hear that some Russian oligarchs feel that, if they become highly visible owners of beloved sports franchises, the Kremlin will be less likely to take them out.
Yes, as in that kind of out.
Remember Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-Russian spy who got poisoned in London after accusing his Russian spy superiors of ordering a hit on Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky? Yes, well who wants to end up like him? (Or Boris, for that matter).
Litvinenko’s death attracted a lot of unwanted publicity, especially considering that few people had heard of him. So imagine the unwanted publicity that would surround the sudden assassination, poisoning, or disappearance of the highly visible owner of a professional sports team!
Now, personally, having seen what happened to another high-profile Russian billionaire who crossed the Kremlin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was recently refused parole from his Siberian labour camp for allegedly hoarding lemons, we’re sceptical that owning, say, the New Jersey Nets, will extend the life or freedom of a disloyal oligarch. But we suppose it’s worth a try.
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