.

.

.

.

.

.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RUSSIANS SPENDING IN LONDON

There are an estimated 300,000 Russians in the capital. Most are ordinary middle-class professionals, but dominating the group is the tiny subset of oligarchs with their apparently limitless wealth.
On arrival in London, an oligarch's first port of call is an estate agent, where deals are typically cut at high speed.
As one agent recalls: 'A buyer wanted to spend £64million on three properties - two in Central London and one in the country or in Scotland. I asked him for a banker's reference, and he said, "No need, I'll pay cash."'
In 2006, a fifth of all houses in the UK that sold for more than £8million went to Russians. And members of their inner circle are able to indulge in extravagant purchases, too - Stephen Curtis owned a castle in Dorset.
Size is necessary for the essentials of the oligarch lifestyle - an indoor pool, gym, and staff accommodation.
According to estate agents Knight Frank, some clients spent up to £400,000 on advanced electronics alone: 'One had a system that enabled him to see who was knocking on his door in London from anywhere in the world, via a video clip sent to his phone.'
Most oligarchs also acquire their own jet. Roman Abramovich has three, including a Boeing 767 nicknamed the Bandit.
Then there's the yacht. Billionaire property magnate Vladimir Doronin used his luxury Lady In Blue to whisk fiery model Naomi Campbell off on a romantic cruise last year.
In 2003, Abramovich bought Pelorus, the tenth largest private yacht in the world. It has a swimming pool with an artificial current and an owner's cabin with panoramic views.
Valerie Manokhina, a former friend of Abramovich, says Russian men are obsessed with competition.
'It is size that matters,' she explained. 'The ladies go to a restaurant with the latest bag, the boys do it with boats and planes.'
This influx of high-spending Russians has changed the profile of many of London's top retailers. Most luxury department stores and boutiques now hire Russian-speaking staff to help the wives and girlfriends of oligarchs shop.
The obsession with spending stems from a fatalistic approach to life.
'Russians have no concept of saving, just as they have no concept of tomorrow,' says Marina Starkova, a director of Red Square PR company.
Such fatalism may explain Russia's age-old reputation as a nation of enthusiastic vodka drinkers. But those who move to London quickly acquire a taste for fine wine.
One dealer admitted that some of his clients were spending enough to support a small wine merchant singlehandedly, though money can't buy sophistication.
Wine writer Tim Atkin remembers watching four cigar-smoking men at the Michelin-starred Hakkasan restaurant ordering a £1,560 bottle of 1996 Chateau Petrus - which they then diluted with Diet Coke.
Abramovich is teetotal, although he's developed an expensive taste for sushi. Late one afternoon he was in Baku, Azerbaijan, and remarked that he fancied sushi for dinner.
Baku isn't known for its Japanese cuisine, so the aide ordered £1,200 of sushi from Ubon in Canary Wharf. It was collected by limousine and then flown 3,000 miles by private jet to Azerbaijan.
At an estimated total cost of £40,000, it must surely rank among the most expensive takeaways in history.

No comments:

Post a Comment