Villa La Leopolda … Lily Safran … Mikhail Prokhorov … the saga continues …

In 2008 (see my blog entries for Wednesday, August 13, 2008 and Sunday August 17, 2008), the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the sumptuous French Riviera villa, La Leopolda, from billionairess Lily Safra for €500 million ($645 million / £418 million ). According to Forbes, Mikhail Prokhorov, today 44, is worth $8 billion, money he […]

In 2008 (see my blog entries for Wednesday, August 13, 2008 and Sunday August 17, 2008), the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the sumptuous French Riviera villa, La Leopolda, from billionairess Lily Safra for €500 million ($645 million / £418 million ).

According to Forbes, Mikhail Prokhorov, today 44, is worth $8 billion, money he has made from platinum, nickel and gold mines.

Lily Safra, 75, who, also according to Forbes, is worth $1.2 billion, is the widow of the Jewish-Lebanese banker, Edmund Safra. The banker was her fourth husband: According to the book Gilded Lily by Isabel Vincent and published by Harper on June 29 this year (2010), she was born Lily Watkins in Porto Alegre, Mexico, from a Scottish railwayman and a Czech mother. Edmund Safra died in a 1999 fire which was deliberately lit in his luxury Monaco penthouse. An American male nurse, Ted Maher, was convicted for the crime in the Monaco court, but has since been released, and has apparently returned to the States.

You can read La Leopolda’s history in the two blog entries mentioned above, but in 1988, Lily and Edmund had bought the villa for an undisclosed price. The villa had not however become their main residence; they already had several homes in the States, in South America, in London’s posh Belgravia, in Geneva, Paris and Monaco.

In July 2008, Lily, widowed, and a Monaco national, received an offer, as the cliché goes, that she could not refuse. Prokhorov wanted to buy the property, and after negotiation, the agreed price was €500 million ($645 million / £418 million) making it the world’s most valuable private home.

According to French law, the two signed a ‘Promis de Vente’ agreement for which the Russian had to put down 10% of the asking price – €39 million ($50 million / £33 million). He did so. But that December when he was to hand over the balance, there was not a squeak from him.

The verdict in the resulting court case, announced in the French Mediterranean city of Nice in March this year (2010), was that Lily Safra could keep the deposit and, what was more, Prokhorov had to give her an additional €1.2 million ($1.5 million / £1 million) in interest. The law in France is that once a ‘Promis de Vente’ has been signed the buyer has seven days to pull out of the deal without losing the deposit. The Russian was therefore almost six months too late for claiming back his deposit.

At the time, Lily Safra announced through her Paris-based spokesperson that the money that she would accordingly receive from Prokhorov would be shared between 10 charities.

The spokesperson quoted her as saying: ‘By transforming the deposit into an act of giving I would like to encourage all who can do so to support medical research, patient care, education and other humanitarian causes.’

Ten days ago (July 13) Prokhorov, having decided not to appeal against the Nice Court’s verdict, and the money therefore Safra’s, she made the first of two of the promised payments.

One, to the amount of €8 million ($20 million / £6.7 million) went to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, to its Brain and Bone Marrow Institute. Edmund Safra suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and, at the time of his death, was receiving treatment at the hospital. (Pitié-Salpêtrière, by the way, is the hospital where the moribund Princess Diana was taken and which had received much criticism from Diana fans claiming that the hospital had not done their utmost for the princess.)

The second payment of €7 million ($9 million / £5.8 million) was made to the Claude-Pompidou Institute for Alzheimer’s, based in Nice.

The other pledged sums, for example €1 million ( $1.2 million / £850,000) for neuro-science research at London King’s College, €2 million ( $2.5 million / £1.6 million) to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in the African country of Rwanda, to €10 ($ 12.9 million / £8.3 million) to the Edmond J.Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, will be handed over in due course.

Already known for her generous donations to charity, Lily Safra, a friend of Prince Charles and Camilla, is probably now as great a philanthropist as Bill Gates.

As for La Leopolda, Lily Safra’s spokesperson insists that the property is not for sale. The property, meanwhile, is guarded by several security guards. They are young Israelis. Most days they can be seen on the beach down below. There are also security cameras all over the place. In fact, the property has a permanent staff of about 50; gardeners, pool attendants, cleaners, chambermaids, chauffeurs, cooks and so on.

The book I mention above can be found at here

It ranks 2725 on amazondotcom today, Sunday, July 25.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

2 Responses

7-25-2010 at 14:20:40

Damn, she didn't give anything to the Jo Wake fund for the protection of me.

Those sums are so huge most of us average people can't really comprehend them. I'm all for donations to alzheimer societies too, hope something comes of it.

7-27-2010 at 06:01:37

I also did not get a cent!

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