The real estate world is abuzz with news that a French Riviera home called the Villa Leopolda, built by King Leopold II of Belgium in 1902, has sold for $750 million to a Russian oligarch.
In the gossip-filled sewing circle that is high-end real estate, Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich was originally rumored as the buyer, though he has denied it. The rumor was difficult to believe anyway, as it was only last week that the Chelsea Football Club owner received permission from Kensington and Chelsea council to build his own $285 million dream home in that section of London. He’s only worth $23 billion after all.
What’s astounding is that the $750 million price tag is far above and beyond the going price of property, even on the French Riviera. Though questionable, that doesn’t make such a sale impossible; the Russian property grab has reached historic heights in recent years.
“Every year we have more Russians coming for house hunting along the Riviera,” says French luxury broker Baris Basaran of Expat Consulting, a Vienna-based company specializing in the Riviera. The competition among them isn’t so much about what they have, but what they’re able to say they’ve spent. And with, according to Forbes, 87 Russian billionaires, the competition is fierce. There “are only several villas between $60 and $150 million available,” points out Basaran.