Wednesday was not a fun day for Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Though he has long denied earning his fortune as an “oligarch” or even being particularly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 11 Abramovich was added to the UK’s sanctions list. That action resulted in the seizure of his $150 million London mansion plus two other properties in London and a $25 million country estate. It also potentially froze his plans to sell the Chelsea football team, or at least would make it difficult for him to be the beneficiary of the sale if those plans continue. That sale could fetch $2-3 billion.
On March 15 the European Union added Roman to its sanctions list.
But for the last month, not much has happened to Roman’s European assets. He also has notably NOT been sanctioned by the United States.
There have been reports that claim American and European authorities have backed off from pursuing Roman after he appeared to be attempting to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. It’s unclear if European authorities ran out of patience or what, because on Wednesday the sanctions noose got a bit tighter around Roman Abramovich’s neck.
First up, France.
French authorities just revealed that they have seized 40 properties linked to sanctioned individuals.
Not all of these properties belong to Abramovich but, according to the Wall Street Journala number of them are directly owned by the Russian billionaire.
The most-significant Abramovich-owned seized property is a luxury villa on the French Riviera called Chateau de la Croe:
Chateau de la Croe
Chateau de la Croe is located in Cap d’Antibes, on the French Riviera between Nice and Cannes. The Chateau sits on 12 acres and was built in the late 1920s for the general manager of Associated Newspapers.
In May 1938, two years after his abdication, Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, King Edward VIII, began leasing the Chateau. His wife, American-born Wallis Simpson, proceeded to give the home a massive renovation.
In 1948, Winston and Clementine Churchill celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with the Duke and Duchess at The Chateau de la Croe.
Between 1950 and 1957 the chateau was owned by shipping magnate (and eventual second husband of Jackie Kennedy) Aristotle Onassis. He had to sell it after his wife literally caught him in bed with her best friend. Interestingly, Aristotle sold the property to his scorned wife’s brother, a rival shipping magnate named Stavros Niarchos (whose grandson of the same name would later become famous for bedding the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan).
Roman Abramovich acquired Chateau de la Croe in 2001 for an undisclosed amount. Prior to his acquisition the home had fallen into a sad state of disrepair and was actually occupied by squatters. After evicting the squatters he proceeded to spend an estimated $40 million on lavish renovations. Over a four year construction period Roman repaired and restored the chateau while also adding a 50-foot rooftop pool, plus a basement movie theater/gym.
The photo above was taken in April 2001 so these additions had not yet been added. You can see the updated Chateau, including the rooftop pool in the following drone video that was uploaded to YouTube in October 2017:
Chateau de la Croe is currently estimated to be worth $120 million.
French authorities have also reportedly seized two of Roman’s properties on the island of St. Bart’s.
Now let’s leave France and head over to Jersey. [Insert obligatory New Jersey joke here].
Officially known as the Bailiwick of Jersey and located 14 miles off the coast of Normandy, Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, spanning 45 square-miles.
A thousand years ago Jersey was owned by various members of the British royal family. The islands were surrendered to France in the 13th century but its inhabitants remained loyal to the English crown without ever becoming part of France OR England. Today it is a self-governing democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
English is the primary language. Britain’s pound sterling is the primary currency. One of the primary reasons foreigners visit Jersey?
To hide money. Allegedly.
Sure you’ve heard of the Cayman Islands, but Jersey has been reported to be by far and away the world’s top offshore tax shelter. But they’re making progress in shaking that image.
On Wednesday the Jersey Law Officers department reported that it had frozen $7 BILLION worth of assets that allegedly belonged to Roman Abramovich. Let me repeat that.
For context, according to our current estimate, Roman Abramovich’s net worth was $14 billion. When we computed his net worth to be $14 billion we took into account his known equity stakes in Russian steelmaker Evraz and Norilsk Nickel plus the dividends and sale proceeds he has earned over the decades related to companies such as Sibneft and Aeroflot.
$14 billion is the same number currently being reported by Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. If that number was correct, I think the real question being begged is…
WHAT IS ROMAN ABRAMOVICH’S ACTUAL NET WORTH?
Clearly half of Roman Abramovich’s known net worth was not just seized. This appears to be $7 billion worth of wealth that was totally off the books. How many more hidden billions are out there in secret Abramovich accounts?