In the United States, an ongoing housing slump has grown into a lead weight around the neck of American consumers. But in the South of France, things are just grand.
An unidentified Russian billionaire has spent $750 million to buy a villa on the French Riviera, demolishing the previous global record for the sale of a private home, which was set by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal’s $114 million purchase of his London mansion. The Times:
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.
So apart from spending the GDP of small countries on a house, what else do super-rich Russian billionaires do to pass the time? Burn money:
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.”
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