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World Record for French Property on Cote d'Azur

Tuesday 02 September 2008

A Russian tycoon is reputed to have paid nearly €500 million for a property on the French Côte d’Azur, making it the world’s most expensive property.

Newspaper reports originating from the French newspaper Nice-Matin have been claiming that the grand Villa Leopolda at Villefranche-sur-mer, between Monaco and Nice, has been sold to a Russian ‘oligarch’ Mikhaïl Prokhorov. However, within days of the story being confidently carried by almost every new agency and newspaper in the world, his spokesman denied that his boss is the buyer.

It seems Prokhorov is still smarting from being detained last year in the Courchevel ski resort over a suspected prostitution ring. He and 25 other people were taken in for questioning when police raided a luxurious hotel in the French ski resort.

Prokhorov was later released without charge and he has demanded that the French authorities close the case. The Deputy Chief Executive of Prokhorov's Onexim Group, Sergei Chernitsyn, told the Moscow Times that the Nice-Matin report was not true. "The rumours may be connected with the activities of the Onexim division dealing with luxury real estate."

He added, "Mr. Prokhorov will not make any business in France until the Courchevel incident is settled and the French authorities give him an official apology." Some observers have suggested that Prokhorov may be putting pressure on the authorities to give him the all clear prior to finalising the deal, although it is doubtful whether such a clumsy threat will hold much sway.

The ostentatious display of wealth that typifies much of the Russian investment on the Cote-d’Azur is not something that has enamoured the new influx to either local politicians or residents.

The Villa Leopolda was built in 1902 for the Belgian King Leopold II, who purchased the 8 hectares of land in which it is situated for the token sum of €1! It was then owned by the Fiat magnate Giovanni Agnelli, who later sold it to the Lebanese-born Swiss banker Edmond Safra.

It is now his widow Lily Safra who appears to have sold the property, although reports suggest that she has been reluctant to let go of it, and hence the mind-boggling figure that Prokhorov is said to have paid for it.

Villefranche-sur-mer itself is also a glorious area of the Mediterranean coast, possessing probably one of the most beautiful naturally attractive bays in the world. We can certainly see why Prokhorov may like it!

Nice properties for more ordinary mortals can be purchased for around €1,000,000!

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