Written by Rick Archer,
our day of exploration at the French Riviera, we had started at
Villefranche, driven west to Nice, and driven east to Eze.
From Eze we traveled three miles further east to Monaco, the second
smallest country in the world (the Vatican is
the smallest country... I knew you would ask).
Monaco is 0.7 square miles, yet it is home to 35,000 people.
This odd feature gives you a clue to an
unusual trivia question:
What country is the most densely populated in the world?
would immediately think of China or India, but in fact the
winner is none other than Monaco. In fact, it isn't
even close. Second place goes to Singapore. With
46,000 people per square mile, Monaco is TWICE as densely
populated. (China is 360, the USA is 76 per square
Monique, our travel guide, said the real estate prices here
were prohibitive. She listed some prices and everyone
on the bus gasped. You have to be very rich to live in
This photograph of Monte Carlo shows a span of about one mile which
is half the city. Believe it or not, that soccer stadium marks
the exact border between Monaco and France! If you walk across
the street to the green area on the right, you are in suddenly in
Take note of the
twisting, winding streets.
These streets are part of the
famous Monte Carlo
Grand Prix racing circuit. I find it highly amusing that Monaco has
embraced the culture of fast cars so greatly when it is possible to
walk to any point in the city in just minutes.
The two marinas show
that like the rest of the Riviera, boats are also a big part of its
culture. The Über-rich love to anchor
their expensive yachts
out in Mediterranean and take a smaller boat
in for a night of gambling
at the casinos.
I guess that's one way
of beating the taxes - live out at sea. But I forgot... the
residents of Monaco don't have to pay taxes, do they? Monaco
levies no income tax on individuals. Considering how
expensive its property values are, the only way Monaco can attract
new citizens is by serving as a tax haven for the rich. The
absence of a personal income tax in the principality has attracted a
considerable number of wealthy "tax refugee" residents from European
countries who derive the majority of their income from activity
outside Monaco; celebrities such as Formula One drivers attract most
of the attention, but the vast majority of them are less well-known
playground offers such good tax breaks that some of the hottest
shots in Paris and London now live there and commute. It’s 7 minutes
by helicopter to Nice airport (where planes fly direct to Orly or
London City Airport) and a tax loophole allows non-residents 90 days
a year in Britain, plus the day of travel out and the day of travel
back. With a bit of jiggery pokery (underhanded scheming), workers
can fly to the UK on Monday and back on Thursday night.
There is one very bizarre
twist. Monaco has high social insurance taxes payable by both
employer and employee. The employer's contribution is between
28%–40% of gross salary including benefits and the employee pays a
further 10%–14%. Social insurance contributions, amounting
to nearly 50% of salary, are a major disincentive to the hiring
of staff. It costs so much to pay service people that no one
can afford to hire any help.
Sad to say, many of the residents have to wash their own clothes and
vacuum their own homes. Poor them. Sometimes it must be
tough to be rich. They have my complete sympathy.
Life in the Fast Lane
I realize that Las
Vegas, our favorite US den iniquity, prides itself in its nickname
However Monaco and its principal city Monte
Carlo laid claim to that title long before Vegas ever came along.
Monte Carlo first swung
into action about the same time as the American Civil War.
Vegas was still the home of the coyotes and the sage brush back in
I can only conclude that
the Europeans have been perfecting "Life in the Fast Lane" a lot
longer than the Americans. Everything about Monaco is
Fast. Fast men with their fast cars, fast boats, and fast
Unfortunately life in
the fast lane can be dangerous. Some people who are attracted
to Monaco push the limits and race whenever they get the chance.
They like to take chances and risk making their life shorter by
moving too fast.
Even the Royal Family is
not immune. Of course their most famous citizen, Princess
Grace, died of a car accident. Either she or her daughter
Stephanie was at the wheel when their speeding car went off a cliff.
For that matter, Princess Caroline's second husband Stefano
Casiraghi died while racing his speedboat.
Life in Monaco is
clearly not for the faint of heart.
Gambling and James Bond
Royale was Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. In
addition to being a professional spy, Bond an expert gambler.
His mission was to play against and bankrupt Le Chiffre, paymaster
for the evil cartel SMERSH, in a high-stakes baccarat game at a
Monte Carlo casino.
The game soon turned into a vicious confrontation between Le Chiffre
and Bond. Unfortunately Bond hit a losing streak and lost
everything. As Bond contemplated killing Le Chiffre outright,
CIA agent Felix Leiter offered to stake Bond for one hand.
Bond accepted the money and the game continued. Bond's luck
instantly turned. Bond eventually succeeded in taking tens of
millions of francs from Le Chiffre belonging to SMERSH. Much
mayhem followed as Le Chiffre resorted to violence to attempt to
regain the lost money.
Casino Royale was one of Fleming's best. Fleming
expertly portrayed the risk of gambling, wealth and stunning women.
Of course, there were beautiful women involved in the story as well.
It would not have been a Bond story otherwise.
recognized the connection between the excitement of gambling where
men can win or lose entire fortunes, the danger of crossing swords
with powerful and corrupt men, and the attraction that beautiful
women have for wealthy and brave men.
Monaco's Grand Prix Auto Race
Considering how deeply Monaco wraps its identity around its Grand
Prix auto race, I find it deeply ironic that a 1982 car crash cost
Monaco its most famous icon, Princess Grace.
No one has ever
explained exactly what happened to Grace. She and her daughter
Stephanie were driving down from the top of the mountain above
Monaco when the car spun out of control, ripped through a barrier
and went plunging down a steep embankment where it came to a stop in
some man's backyard.
Stephanie quite likely
played a prominent role in her famous mother's death. The man
who owned the house was the first person to the accident. He
noticed that Stephanie appeared to be climbing out of the wreckage
from the driver's side. In the thirty years since the death of
her mother, Stephanie has not once commented on the circumstances of
her mother's death. I think that lack of candor says it all.
Since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix has been
held annually in the streets of Monaco. The erection of the Circuit
takes six weeks to complete and the removal after the race another
three weeks. The circuit has many elevation changes and tight
corners and includes a tunnel.
In addition, the roads are incredibly
narrow. These features combine to make the Monaco Grand Prix
the most demanding of all Formula
One tracks. Certain
observers have likened racing round the course to "riding a
bicycle round your living room".
Due to the tight and twisty nature of the
circuit, it favors the skill of the drivers over the power of the
cars. However, there is very little overtaking as the course is so
narrow and dangerous. Passing another car is
practically a death-defying accomplishment.
Prior to 1987, the number of cars starting
the race was limited to 20, compared to 26 at other circuits. The
famous tunnel section (running under the Fairmont Hotel, marked in
grey in the circuit diagram above) is said to be difficult for
drivers to cope with due to the quick switch from light to dark,
then back to light again, at one of the fastest points of the
course. As a result, the race outcomes
tend to be decided by grid positions as well as pit strategies.
punishing the circuit is, it is no surprise that
every race has as many as a half-dozen incidents including many
'near-misses' of serious accidents. Only two drivers
have ever crashed into the harbor, the most famous being Alberto
Ascari in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. The other was Paul Hawkins,
during the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix.
Fortunately, both men survived their crashes.
Despite the demanding
nature of the course, only one man has ever died.
In May 1967,
Lorenzo Bandini was racing at the Monaco Grand Prix.
He had been running second to Denny Hulme
to Denny Hulme for several laps and seemed to grow impatient with
his inability to find an opening to pass the leader.
82nd lap, Bandini
lost control of his car at the harbor chicane
(Note: a chicane is a
movable barrier used in motor racing; sometimes placed
before a dangerous corner to reduce speed).
Bandini had just
entered an S-turn when his Ferrari's left rear wheel hit the
chicane guard rail, sending him into an
Bandini's futile chase ended in horror
when his car
impacted a light pole and overturned.
The car did a
spectacular mid-air flip and crashed upside down in flames amongst
the straw bales.
Once the car hit
straw bales which lined the harbor side, the
fuel tank ruptured and sparks ignited the
fuel as the car rolled over with Bandini
trapped beneath it. Race marshals
flipped his car upright and pulled the
unconscious Bandini out from his flaming
rescue operation was hopelessly inadequate.
A second fire occurred when the gas tank exploded
just as Bandini was
being pulled away from the Ferrari.
These flames made Bandini's condition even worse. Bandini's burns
were too extensive to save him. He died three days later.
It is probably more a
testament to the incredible skill of the drivers that there have not
been more serious accidents. The Monaco Grand Prix is so
difficult that it is still considered the ultimate test of
driving skills in Formula One. Although
Monaco is proud that it offers one of the last true city street
circuits, many people question the safety of the course. More
than likely, if the event was not already an existing Grand
Prix, based on modern standards it would
not be permitted to be added to the schedule for safety reasons.
It would be a tremendous
shock to the system for Monaco to lose its beloved race.
Residents of Monaco take great pride in the international fame their
infamous race brings to their country. The motor race is
deeply embedded in the nation's identity. As it stands, Monaco
is most famous for gambling, excessive wealth, and decadence of
Biblical proportions. Some of its citizens are openly called "Eurotrash"
for abandoning their countries to save a few bucks, a tactic
resented by many.
The car race is
important because Monaco is glad to have this glamorous event to be
Befitting its reputation as the favorite playground in Europe,
Monaco is home to two of the most beautiful sports palaces in the
Monaco sponsors the
Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Tournament on a yearly basis. Last
time I checked, Rafael Nadal from nearby Spain had won it for the
seventh straight year.
Not one player on
Monaco's successful soccer team was born in Monaco. However, Monaco
is home to one of the most beautiful stadiums in the entire world.
Thanks to the stadium, the country has no trouble importing players.
For a while, Monte Carlo
sponsored a major golf tournament. I found this very
surprising given the country's lack of space. The Augusta
National Golf Course where they play the Masters Golf Tournament is
about 7,500 yards long. Monaco is about 10,000 yards long.
I assumed I would have noticed a golf course in one of the pictures.
So I checked. Sure
enough, they held their golf tournament in nearby part of France.
That made me feel better. For a second there, I thought that
maybe their streets converted into a golf course whenever necessary.
Unless they begin doing
landfill like those man-made islands in Dubai, I think it will be a
while before Monaco gets its own golf course.
Life of Luxury
Any discussion of Monaco
real estate must begin with the understanding that there is no such
thing as traditional homes for sale inside of Monaco. The
place is far too small to have cul de sacs, recessed wooded estates
and gated communities like we know here in the States.
Similar to New York City, if you want to buy a 'home' in
Monaco, you have no choice but to purchase a condo and live high up
in the air.
And don't expect anything spacious either. Space is
sold at a huge premium. If you want 'space', buy a yacht.
Live in your postage stamp home with lots of expensive artwork
during the week and greet your weekend guests on the yacht.
Isn't that so European?
I am not even sure if anyone really lives inside of Monaco
besides Prince Albert. For one thing, over half the population
of Monaco doesn't actually live there. They rent or purchase a
living space the size of a closet and fly in periodically to
maintain their 'tax haven' resident status.
Most of the people who work or play in Monaco have no choice
but to buy somewhere in France and commute in. Many 'Monagesques'
as they call themselves live in Beausoleil, a
well-known suburb of Monaco. Or they in the hills and valleys
that surround Monaco. Fortunately for everyone, France has
plenty of land for sale.
Rick's Note: Here is an article on Property Values
well known as a tax haven, and the luxury lifestyle associated
with the principality is as legendary
as her tempting zero income tax.
From the casino featured in James Bond
films, the Grand Prix around the streets in early summer when
anyone who is anyone has their yacht in the marina, the Aston
Martin showroom at the top of Casino Square to the designer
fashion labels with their boutiques looking out on the
Mediterranean nothing comes cheap in Monaco – or does it?
Do you need to be a millionaire to share in Monaco’s tax status
and social life?
Not necessarily – but it helps!
To gain residency in Monaco you need to be able to commit
yourself to live there for six months a year (not too difficult
a task!). You will also need a
property deed to show the residency officials a bank certificate
from one of Monaco’s banks to prove a
deposit has been made. Many of the banks ask for 400,000 Euros,
but for those in the know, some will
accept 100,000. And the good news is that you’re free to use
that money how you want once residency is granted, and can be
taken back out of Monaco without
The main cost is of course the property.
Closing costs are high in Monaco – expect anything between 10% and
14% due largely to notary fees - and this needs to be factored in
when deciding if you have sufficient
capital to move to Monaco.
A first floor studio in Boulevard d’Italie for example is currently
available for US $540,000. With the bank deposit and closing costs
it works out under a million dollars – but the studio is only big
enough for one person to get residency and has no views to speak of.
What about a two bedroom apartment with views of the Mediterranean,
more perhaps what most people would want?
The cheapest two bedroom (again with no views to speak of) comes in
around the million dollar level. One
which has 95 square meters (about a
thousand square feet) living area and a 23 square
meters balcony with views of the Med and Grand Prix circuit
is double that. Plus by the time
closing costs and bank deposits are taken into consideration you
wouldn’t get a lot of change out of two and a half million dollars.
Once you’re into the three million dollar bracket the choice and
comfort level gets better – that will buy you a penthouse with a
roof garden with a residents only pool in the complex and a couple
of secure parking spaces.
So you do need to be a millionaire to live in Monaco?
No… but to have a good standard of
life and to enjoy Monaco to the full…yes!"
The Wild Tale of Villa Leopolda
Villa Leopolda Sold For
$750 Million To Russian Oligarch
A mysterious Russian billionaire has made
an unprecedented splash in the real estate market along the French
Riviera this week, buying the Villa Leopolda.
However, his identity remains a secret.
This property is no
stranger to mystery. In 2006, it was rumored that the house
had been bought by Bill Gates, but apparently not. More
recently the estate was said to be sold to Russian tycoon
Roman Abramovich, but apparently not.
Now no one is sure just who has purchased the estate.
The Russian billionaire has trumped his
big-spending rivals and broken a world record by splashing out $750
million on one of the most sumptuous villas on the French Riviera.
This famous villa was used by Alfred Hitchcock as the set for the
exciting masquerade party seen in the conclusion of To
Catch a Thief filmed on location here in the Riviera.
The price of the Villa Leopolda, a Belle Apoque mansion on
the heights of Villefrance between Nice and Monaco
has amazed estate agents. It has
also fuelled local worries that the invasion of Russian money
on the Cote d'Azur is getting out of hand.
The Russians are coming!
Since the early 1990s, Russian oligarchs, drawn by memories of the
Riviera-mad old Russian aristocracy, have been piling into seaside
properties at Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes, Saint-Tropez and the other
TimesOnline reports that the seller of the
villa had the steel nerve required to wait for the astronomical bid
for Villa Leopolda. Mrs Safra was
said to have held out for months as the buyer raised his bid for the
villa, between Nice and Monaco, which King Leopold II of Belgium
acquired in 1902.
The previous record for a house was said to be the £57 million that
Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, paid for a property in Kensington
Palace Gardens in 2004. This macho
spending contest by Russian oligarchs is making property agents
Jean Pierre, a high-end agent, said: "It's completely surreal and we
are really uneasy. We don't dare any more to propose any price below
€100 million for these clients. Anything below and they throw you
out...and you should see how they do it," he told Le Parisien.
The Nice Matin newspaper said: "At
this price tag, we are beyond luxury and even reality."
arrested in "Pimping case"
January 12, 2007
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has been arrested by French police in
a sex scandal involving alleged prostitutes. Prokhorov is Russia’s
eighth richest man, with a 54.8% stake in
None of the press agencies have quite come out and said it, but they
are heavily implying that he was breaking the law by organizing
‘parties’ for rich Russians where Russian ‘models’ just happened to
The 30 guests, including about 12 young and leggy Russian women,
mixed vodka and cripplingly expensive Chateau Petrus 1972 —
sometimes in the same glass — and dined on oysters, foie gras and
Russia’s Izvestia newspaper quoted a Russian matchmaker to the
wealthy who often flies young girls to Courchevel to join the
tycoons’ parties. He said they were models, not prostitutes.
“These girls, you see them all the time, they never ski, they walk
around Courchevel on high heels,” another frequent visitor to
Courchevel told Reuters.
Or, in the words of RIA Novosti, Prokhorov is a “pimp suspect.”
Prokhorov, who said the women were models
and his guests, was held for four days and released without being
Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire often
described as Russia's most eligible bachelor, was detained during an
investigation into a suspected international prostitution ring
operating at an upscale ski resort, a French prosecutor said on
Prokhorov, 41, chief executive of the world's largest producer of
nickel, Norilsk Nickel, was taken into custody on Tuesday at
Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps, after a lengthy
investigation, said the prosecutor in Lyon, Xavier Richaud.
With an estimated wealth of $6.4 billion, Prokhorov ranked 89th on
Forbes magazine's 2006 list of the world's wealthiest people. Among
the 26 people detained, Richaud said, were Prokhorov, two of his
aides, two other people on his company's staff and 10 women.
During the raid, $64,000 in cash was seized from a hotel at the ski
resort. The women are not under investigation for a crime, Richaud
said, and they are understood to have since left France.
He said, "Mr. Prokhorov denied pimping." Richaud did not indicate
the nature of Prokhorov's involvement, or say where the
investigation stood, but he said that Prokhorov could be held until
at least on Sunday. Most of the people taken into custody have been
released, with the prosecutor declining to give other names.
The investigations were started last year, after reports of many
young women passing through Geneva using an Austrian travel agency,
the Associated Press reported, adding that initial findings
suggested that the women were offered payment in goods from luxury
The arrests took place at several hotels at
Courchevel, located 123 miles due north of
Alpine resort has been a favored
playground for Russia's super-rich for some years
now. Tycoons like Roman
Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea soccer club, gather there each year
to celebrate New Year and the Russian Christmas.
One year, president Vladimir Putin
arrived by helicopter for an afternoon of skiing and lunch at Chalet
de Pierres, a mountaintop restaurant.
But the athletic Mr.
Putin is the exception. Skiing is
usually only an afterthought for many of the ultra-rich, who
pay for chalets equipped with private pools, steam baths and fitness
Upon hearing of the
event, French interior minister and presidential hopeful
Nicolas Sarkozy reacted with a quip.
After he learned
that Prokhorov had
allegedly offered the services of Russian women to guests at
his parties, Sarkozy smiled and
said, "Now there's
a man who wants to please!"
What a shame the local
authorities did not take as worldly a view as Mr. Sarkozy.
THREE - Who Could it Be?
August 17, 2008
The secret has finally been revealed. The
mystery buyer of Villa Leopolda is none other than Mikhail
Prokhorov, the controversial Russian billionaire. Mr.
Prokhorov is believed to have paid more than £400 million for Villa
Leopolda, built in 1902 for Belgian King Leopold II near Cap Ferrat.
Mr Prokhorov, the 24th richest man in the
world according to Forbes magazine, now heads the Onexim Group, a
Russian investment fund specialized in new technologies.
Single, he is dubbed "the world's most eligible bachelor" in Moscow.
The purchase suggests Mr Prokhorov has made
peace with France, having previously threatened to boycott the
country after his 2007 arrest in
connection with a prostitution ring. In January 2007 it was believed
that Muscovite call girls were being flown to Courchevel to
"entertain" the hundreds of super-rich businessman who stay at the
resort each January for the Russian New Year.
Mikhail Prokhorov was furious when police
swooped on his hotel in the Alpine ski resort of Courchevel last
year and began to question the 43-year-old
industrialist about a number of young women in his party.
Detectives had carried out an investigation
suggesting that prostitutes had been procured for guests.
Mr Prokhorov, who is worth some
pounds £40 billion and listed as the 24th wealthiest man in the
world, was arrested the
same night at his hotel along with 25 others.
Those held for questioning included several
Russian businessmen and eight women in their twenties who said they
were models accompanying Prokhorov.
No charges were brought and all
accusations were eventually dropped.
However, Mr. Prokhorov was incensed at what he considered to be
unnecessary embarrassment not just to himself, but to his guests as
well. At this point, the tycoon demanded an apology,
saying the scandal had caused "immense damage" to his international
image. He fumed when the apology was not
Fellow Russians - some of whom had been arrested alongside him -
accused France of disrespect, saying they and Mr Prokhorov were
quite prepared to holiday elsewhere in the future.
They no longer felt welcome in France, their favorite place to
But it is now 17 months after the incident and
those bitter feelings appear to be in the rearview mirror. On
Sunday Mr Prokhorov, who made his pounds £40 billion fortune through
Norilsk, the platinum and copper producer, was named as the new
owner of Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera.
Earlier owners include the late Italian industrialist and principal
shareholder of Fiat, Giovanni Agnelli, and Lebanese-born Swiss
banker Edmond Safra, whose widow Lily Safra has now sold the
property. Her husband died at his
Monaco home in 1999 in a fire that was deemed arson.
Early reports suggested Mr Prokhorov's fellow Oligarch and close
friend Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea Football Club owner, had bought
But local sources confirmed that Mr Abramovich had simply been
advising his fellow Russian on the sale, and that Mr Prokhorov was
in fact the new owner.
A real estate agent based in Monaco said: "Mr Prokhorov was deeply
wounded by the fiasco at Courchevel, but this purchase draws a line
under any quarrel he might have with the French authorities.
"Like thousands of other highly successful Russians,
Mr Prokhorov sees France as a fine country to invest
STORY FOUR -
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The rumor and gossip about billionaire widow Lily Safra's
notoriously high maintenance Villa Leopolda
just seems never to end.
In the summer of 2008, it was widely speculated (and reported) that
The Widow Safra sold her legendary Belle Epoque estate in the Cote
d'Azure to Russian billionaire Mikail Prokhorov for a teeth
chattering and record breaking £392,000,000.
That's around $560,000,000 to all us
Americanos at today's rates. However, back when the deal was alleged
to have been done, it rang up to $750,000,000, a nerve-wracking
amount of money, the thought of which nearly landed Your Mama right
up in the hospital with a colossal case of shock and awe.
Naturally, Mister Prokhorov's people said,
vehemently denied Mister Prokhorov's involvement in any rumored sale
of Villa Leopolda.
Then came a report in early January of 2009
in The Londoner's Diary that stated The Widow Safra's trophy estate
had, in fact, not Aha! been sold. About that time, Your Mama heard
from a couple our savvy sources connected to the same sorts of
jet-setting circles The Widow Safra runs in and both whispered in
our big ol' ear that the news of a sale was just a bunch of hooey at
best and a pathetic publicity ploy at worse.
Fast forward to the middle of February when the scuttlebutt starts
up again in the London papers. Earlier today, both the Times Online
and the Daily Mail ran titillating articles that claim Mister
Prokhorov wants out of the alleged deal and is demanding his
£39,000,000 deposit be returned by The Widow Safra.
Miz Safra, a lacquer haired high society ladee who knows well how to
grind the financial gears, has reportedly refused to return the
massive deposit citing French law which states property buyers lose
their deposit in the event they back out of a real estate deal after
the sales agreement has been signed.
As the children might imagine, the Widow Safra remains mum on the
matter and, as usual, Mister Prokhorov's people have once again
Mister Prokhorov's spokesman went on to
repeat the oft repeated claim that the insanely rich Russian
billionaire would conduct no bizness in the country of France until
French authorities apologize for arresting him for the alleged
procurement of prostitutes for himself an some horny friends while
they all threw it down billionaire style in the swank ski resort of
Courchevel in January of 2007.
Needless to say, the French authorities
have not apologized, nor does it look like they're going to.
All of which means, of course, that
any news of an offer, sale ore request for a deposit to be returned
is all just speculation and gossip.
Will he move in or won't
he? Whether The Villa is worth the kind of money offered is a
debate best left to the realtors and the eye of the beholder.
However, there can be no question that Villa Leopolda deserves its
reputation as one the true luxury home prizes in the world with an
Affixed high atop a tall
and heavily forested hill, the Villa has an amazing view of the
beautiful Mediterranean Sea below. In addition, the Villa has
a perfect view of Cap Ferrat, Villefrance and its harbor, Eze, and
Monaco. It is right in the middle of the most beautiful part
of the famous French Riviera. As they say, this place has
location in abundance. You can't beat it for ambience.
Your Mama imagines we won't know when or if Villa Leopolda sells
until a fleet of moving trucks shows up in the dead of night in an
attempt to covertly squirrel out all The Widow Safra's glitzy
gew-gaws and swellegant knick-knacks unnoticed by the media. We
shall see, children, we shall see.
Incidently, one report went on to say that the global economic
downturn has hit rich Russians hellaciously
hard and that even uber-flashy Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich
is quietly trying to dump his lavish water front spread in the Cap
d'Antibes, another unconfirmed rumor that we should all savor,
relish and take in with a gigantic grain of salt.
When it comes to
Russians, Real Estate, and Rumors, all the salt in the Mediterranean
might not be enough.
STORY FIVE - Mikhail wants his
Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov is going to court to try and
get back the $55 million deposit he forfeited after backing out of a
deal to buy the magnificent Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera for
$750 million including the furnishings last year. The metals magnate
signed a sales agreement for the Villa, and French law stipulates
that purchasers lose their deposits if they pull out after such an
agreement has been signed.
lawyers are now arguing that that the agreement was rendered null
and void due to two technical "anomalies", the London Telegraph
Firstly, they say he should have been given the usual seven-day
period in which to change his mind, which was denied as Prokhorov
signed the agreement under a company name. Secondly, they argue that
Safra's notary had "illicitly lumped the furniture price tag with
the house price in a declaration to the French state", which they
say was grounds for canceling the contract.
Jean-Michel Darrois disputes Prokhorov's claims and said in a
statement to the newspaper, "We have written proof that Mr
Prokhorov, via his lawyers, continued to confirm his intention to
buy the property well after the sale agreement." A
verdict is due in March.
STORY SIX -
Poor Mikhail Prokhorov. Last month we
reported that the metals magnate had been replaced as Russia's
richest man by Vladimir Lisin, and now languishes in second place.
Now a court in Nice has just ruled that the oligarch must forfeit
the $55 million deposit he put down for the magnificent $750 million
Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera in 2008 before backing out of
the deal, the London Daily Mail reports.
Prokhorov signed a sales agreement for the
Villa, and French law stipulates that purchasers lose their deposits
if they pull out after such an agreement has been executed. The
magistrate also ordered Prokhorov to pay the Villa's owner Lily
Safra an additional $1.5 million penalty.
This may or may not have
set a record for the biggest waste of money on a real estate deal in
history. Lily Safra
announced that she would donate the entire sum to a number of
institutions focusing on medical research, patient care, education,
and other important humanitarian causes around the world.
She added that Villa
Leopolda may or may not be for sale. This may or may not be
the last word on the subject.
Boys and Their Expensive Toys
It is time to talk about
the real reason why the French Riviera is so popular. The stunning
Mediterranean Sea has sparkling blue water that is beautiful beyond
description. This area is truly Yacht Paradise. So why is the yacht such
an important part of the Mediterranean lifestyle?
The yacht is ultimate status symbol. Everyone
wants to be a member of the Yacht Club. We all know they're
the ones ruling the world. They decide the fate of
the world over mimosas in their glass-paned dining room of
In addition, we know
the guy with the yacht always gets the girl. Beautiful women
and yachts seem to go hand and hand. The rest of us ask,
"What's so special about a yacht?"
For starters, they get
to see something the rest of the world doesn't. From the
luxury of their lounge chairs, they sit back and view the French
Riviera from the perfect perspective.
They see see the
mountains, the forests, the buildings and the villas. They see
the harbor and the ships. The magnificent beaches of St Tropez, Antibes, and
Cannes exist as their personal wallpaper.
A yacht is like a beach without
people. You have the sun, the view and the breeze. Best
of all there's no one out there to bug them. These are people
who get chased all the time. Finally they have some peace.
The women adore the
privacy. In addition, they like the comfort, they like the
prestige and and they love the private parties where no one can
possibly sneak in.
The travel poster on the left shows a yacht docked off the coast of
Corsica, a large island in the Ligurian Sea that is part of France. By
the way, the Ligurian Sea is another name for the Western Mediterranean.
You history buffs may
remember the island of Corsica was the birthplace of Napoleon.
Corsica and its neighbor Sardinia are both known for their rugged
beauty. The travel poster suggests that by yacht you can
discover an uninhabited area on the island that might be fun to
explore. Or perhaps go in for a skinny dip.
Nice is 110 miles northwest from Corsica. Translating the French
on the poster, it says "By yacht, Nice is five hours away from
You can also see a travel poster
for Capri. This stunning island off the coast of Italy is 360
Corsica. You would sail to the southeast.
There is a third poster
for Ibiza, home of the all-night dance parties on the beach,
swimsuit optional. Ibiza is 420 miles southwest of Corsica. This
island off the coast of Spain has the reputation for wildest
nightlife in the entire Mediterranean. Considering the stories
of non-stop hedonism, no one dares to live there. On the other hand, everyone wants
to visit it.
The point is simple.
When you own a yacht, the entire Mediterranean becomes your
Some people say owning a
yacht is like having a floating castle with a huge moat. You
are completely safe. Better yet, anytime you get bored with
where you are at, you simply move your castle somewhere else.
No one onshore can get
to you, but you can go visit them any time you wish. That's
the best of all worlds. No one can drop in on you. You
have complete control of your doorstep.
Today the Riviera.
Tomorrow Rome. A stopover for the Carnavale Masquerade in Venice.
Through the Suez Canal
down the coast of Africa to the Seychelles.
Back up to the Maldives and its stunning islands. How about a
quick stopover in Dubai? Then over to
Singapore. Bali. Tahiti. The Great Barrier Reef of
Australia. Hong Kong.
Time to visit Hawaii.
How about a trip to San Francisco? Then down the coast
to Acapulco and on to Costa Rica. Through the Panama Canal
to see Lake Gatun and visit Barro Colorado, a protected island with an
Then its on to Cayman.
Over to St Lucia. Maybe a detour down to Rio and Ipanema Beach. Or
perhaps instead a visit to Miami for Salsa?
Now its time to hop the
Atlantic. Bermuda anyone? How about the Azores or
perhaps the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
Then pass the Straits of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean.
Let's drop by Ibiza on
the way back. Then its time to hang out near Cannes. Is it
the Cannes Film Festival? This lifestyle is just a
fantasy to most of us, but it sure sounds like fun.
Whenever you get lonely,
stop at a favorite place and put down the anchor. The moment
people find out you own a yacht, you have friends for life.
When you find a few you like, throw an all night party on board.
Let your hair down; have fun.
When its time to go, collect email addresses so you can stay in
touch with your new friends. Then get out your map.
Where to next? What the heck. Follow the sun.
This story about the
Yacht Lifestyle concludes my story about Monaco and our trip to the
French Riviera. If you want to see one more story about
yachts that will knock your socks off, go read my article about
Greg Norman's yacht.
So tell me the truth.
Are you ready to go out and buy a yacht and sail the Seven Seas?
Let me know if you do so Marla and I can tag along.
My trip to see the
Riviera was a day of mixed feelings.
I can honestly say that
Travel is almost always pleasurable, but once in a while I do get
envious. I felt envious pretty much the entire day on our trip
to the Riviera. I felt sort of the same way I do when I ride
my bike through River Oaks here at home in Houston.
By the way, before our
cruise trip, I wrote several interesting stories about the French
Riviera. If you have enjoyed the stories I have written so
far, I know you would enjoy the other articles as well. There
are six stories in all. I am sure there is some overlap, but
not that much.
Thanks for reading!
RA, April 2011