Villa La Leopoldo … 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 Mikhael 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 Mikhael 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. 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, 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 making it the world’s most valuable private home.
According to French law, the two signed a ‘Promis de Vendre’ 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.
Lily Safra announced through her Paris-based spokesperson that the money that she will accordingly receive from Prokhorov will be shared amongst 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.
La Leopolda, meanwhile, remains unoccupied. Probably, what stands between it and a new proprietor is €500 million.
Already known for her generous donations to charity, Lily Safra is probably now as great a philanthropist as Bill Gates.
She is a friend of Prince Charles and Camilla.
The book I mention is above can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Lily-Making-Worlds-Wealthiest/dp/0061133930/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280055534&sr=1-1
It ranks 2725 on amazondotcom today, Sunday, July 25.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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