French Villa Link to Prokhorov Denied

Virtualglobetrotting.comAn aerial picture of the Villa Leopolda. A French newspaper said the estate was to be sold for 496 million euros.
An official at Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group denied Sunday that the billionaire was close to buying the legendary Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera.

French newspaper Nice-Matin reported Saturday that Prokhorov would soon pay 496 million euros ($729 million) for the villa, which is owned by the widow of banker Edmond Safra. The newspaper did not say where it got the information.

Villa Leopolda is located in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a French Mediterranean seaside resort between Nice and Monte Carlo, and is named after Belgian King Leopold II, who built the house at the start of the 20th century.

Onexim deputy CEO Sergei Chernitsyn said Sunday that the Nice-Matin report was not true. "The rumors may be connected with the activities of the Onexim division dealing with luxury real estate." Chernitsyn said by telephone.

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."

Prokhorov, whom Forbes ranks the sixth-richest man in Russia with an estimated fortune of $19.5 billion, last year announced that he was splitting from longtime business partner Vladimir Potanin after he and 25 other people were taken in for questioning at his hotel in the French ski resort of Courchevel over a suspected prostitution ring.

Prokhorov was released without charge after a few days. He has denied any wrongdoing and has demanded that the French authorities close the case.

Villa Leopolda was at one time owned by Fiat magnate Giovanni Agnelli, Agence France Presse reported.

Safra is said to have hosted U.S. President Ronald Reagan and crooner Frank Sinatra at the villa, the BBC reported.

Bloomberg, MT