Russian Oligarchs

Roman Abramovich : A Russian Oligarch

Who Is Roman Abramovich ?

Roman Abramovich is a prominent Russian billionaire and oligarch known for his vast wealth, diverse business holdings, and high-profile ownership of Chelsea Football Club. Here’s a brief description of Roman Abramovich:

Roman Abramovich was born on October 24, 1966, in Saratov, Russia. He rose to prominence in the 1990s during the privatisation of state-owned assets in Russia. Abramovich amassed his wealth through various ventures, including the oil industry, aluminium production, and investments in companies like Sibneft and Rusal. He is often regarded as one of the wealthiest individuals in Russia.

Table of Contents

Roman Abramovich : A Russian Oligarch
Roman Abramovich : A Russian Oligarch

Abramovich gained international recognition when he purchased the English Premier League football club Chelsea FC in 2003. Under his ownership, Chelsea has achieved numerous domestic and international successes, including several Premier League titles and UEFA Champions League victories.

Beyond football, Abramovich has diversified his investments, including real estate holdings in London and elsewhere, art collections, and philanthropic activities. His life and business ventures have been the subject of significant media attention and intrigue due to his vast wealth and influential connections in Russia and beyond.

Roman Abramovich‘s influence extends into various sectors, making him a notable figure in both Russian business and global sports. However, his life and activities have also been shrouded in controversy, including allegations of close ties to the Kremlin and scrutiny of his wealth’s origins.

1. Nationality and Early Life

Roman Abramovich: The Russian Oligarch’s Background

Roman Abromovich was born on 24 October 1966, on the coast of Volga river Saratov, Russia, to the Jewish family of Arkady and Irina Abramovich.

Roman Abramovich is a prominent figure in Russia’s oligarchic and business circles. His journey from a modest background to becoming one of the wealthiest individuals in Russia is a tale of ambition, shrewd business acumen, and strategic investments.

Early Life: Roman’s father, Arkady Abramovich, was a mid-level engineer, and his mother, Irina Abramovich, was a teacher.

Irina Abramovich died from blood poisoning when Roman was only one and a half years old. Two years later, Roman’s father, Arkady, died in an accident at the construction site where he was working.  In May 1969, Arkady was crushed by a crane at a construction site. Both his legs were badly injured, and he died a few days after the accident. Roman became an orphan at the age of four years.

Roman Abramovich’s grandparents were Nachman Leibovich and Toybe Abramovich. Nachman Leibovich was a Rabbi, and Toybe Abramovich was a housewife. Leibovich took Roman to the industrial town of Ukhta, where he attended the local public school.

In 1974, he moved to Moscow to live with another Uncle Abram Abramovich. Abram was a construction foreman/supervisor. Young Roman lived in Abram’s household until he turned 18 years old.

Ukhta Industrial Institute / technical college
Ukhta Industrial Institute / Technical college

He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and worked a variety of jobs, including as a truck driver and a security guard. Later, he began his compulsory army national service in 1974.

Roman Abramovich initially ventured into business by selling plastic dolls at a market stall after discontinuing his studies at two colleges in the late 1980s. An interesting detail from the biography “Roman Abramovich: The Billionaire” reveals that he continues to employ a woman who was part of his team during those early days. Later, he expanded his entrepreneurial endeavours by selling rubber ducks from his Moscow apartment.

There is no widely reported instances of Roman Abramovich serving compulsory national service in the Russian military. Late, Roman Abramovich attended Ukhta Industrial Institute and Technical College, located in Ukhta, Russia for a year in the late 1980s. His interest in the business realm occurred during his time at Ukhta’s Technical College. To supplement his income, he started selling second-hand tires and car components from his apartment. In 1987, following a short period of service in the Soviet army, Roman Abramovich received a wedding gift of 2,000 rubles from the parents of his first wife, Olga Lysova. This generous gesture enabled him to diversify his merchandise to include items like deodorants and perfumes in his business ventures.

Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas
Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas (Pic By HarrySmitch )

Roman Abramovich attended the Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas, a prestigious institution in Moscow, Russia, specialising in petroleum engineering and related fields. His time at the institute provided him with valuable knowledge and skills in the oil and gas industry, laying the foundation for his future business ventures.

During his studies at the Gubkin Institute, Roman Abramovich gained insights into the energy sector, which would later become a cornerstone of his business empire. The technical knowledge and expertise he acquired at the institute played a crucial role in his ability to navigate and invest in Russia’s post-Soviet privatization era successfully.

Overall, Roman Abramovich’s education at the Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas contributed significantly to his understanding of the energy industry and played a pivotal role in shaping his career as a prominent businessman and oligarch in Russia.

2. Family Details

The Abramovich Family: A Look at Roman’s Personal Life

Roman Abramovich , Height: 5’10” (178 cm), has three citizenships: Russia, Israel, and Portugal.

  • Russian citizenship: Roman Abramovich was born in Russia and has always considered himself to be Russian. He served as the governor of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, a region in northeastern Russia, from 2000 to 2008.
The Abramovich Family
The Abramovich Family
  • Israeli citizenship: Roman Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship in 2018 through the Law of Return, which grants citizenship to Jews and their descendants. He has said that he made the move for family reasons, as his mother was Jewish.
Roman Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship in 2018
Roman Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship in 2018
  • Portuguese citizenship: Roman Abramovich acquired Portuguese citizenship in 2021 through a law that allows descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Portugal in the 15th century to become citizens.

Roman Abramovich has been married 3 times.

  • 1. Olga Lysova (1987-1990): His first marriage was to Olga Yurevna Lysova in December 1987. They divorced in 1990.
  • In the summer of 1987, Roman Abramovich, then 20, saw Olga, the 23-year-old daughter of a high-ranking government ambassador, across a crowded restaurant while vacationing in Ukhta, in the Komi Republic of northern Russia. Olga is Aries and Roman a Scorpio by Zodiac.
Roman with his first wife,Olga Yurevna Lysova, in the late 80's.
Roman with his first wife,Olga Yurevna Lysova, in the late 80’s.
NameOlga Yurevna Lysova
Date of BirthApril 06, 1965
FameRoman Abramovich`s 1st wife
Facts About Olga Yurevna Lysova
  • The couple did not have any children together. However, it’s worth noting that Lysova due to a previous relationship became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter named Nastya. They lived in a one-bed flat in a tower block with Olga’s daughter Nastya .
  • Relationship Statistics : Roman Abramovich and Olga Yurevna Lysova
Dating1987 – Dec 198711 months, 4 days
MarriedDec 1987 – 19902 years, 1 month
Total1987 – 19903 years
Roman Abramovich and Olga Yurevna Lysova Relationship

2. Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina (1991-2007): Roman Abramovich’s second and most well-known marriage was to Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina. Irina Malandina was a former flight attendant and they met during the flight to Germany in 1990 when she worked as an Aeroflot stewardess  They got married in October1991 and had five children . Three daughters, Anna, Sofia and Arina, and two sons, Arkady and Ilya. However, their marriage ended in a high-profile divorce in 2007. This divorce attracted significant media attention due to the substantial financial settlement, which included the division of assets, including properties and other holdings. Irina Malandina got $300m (£155m) from the divorce. In 2018, she spoke on life after divorce with Roman.

DaughterSofia AbramovichApril 2, 1995 (DoB)
SonArkadiy AbramovichSept 14,1993 (DoB)
DaughterAnna AbramovichJan. 30, 1992  (DoB)
DaughterArina AbramovichDec. 21, 2001 (DoB)
SonIlya AbramovichFeb. 18, 2003 (DoB)
Children of Roman Abramovich and Irina Malandina

3. Dasha Zhukova (2008-present): After his divorce from Irina Malandina, Roman Abramovich married Dasha Zhukova in 2008. Dasha Zhukova is an art collector, businesswoman, and philanthropist. The couple has two children together. Their marriage has generally been more private compared to Roman Abramovich’s previous relationships.

Dasha Zhukova and Roman are believed to have met at a New Year’s Eve gathering organized by her father in 2005. Their relationship was commonly described as that of a boyfriend and girlfriend until a revelation surfaced during a 2015 magazine interview, where Dasha disclosed that the couple had, in fact, quietly married back in 2008. They have two children together: Aaron Alexander and Leah Lou. They divorced in 2017.

Aircraft and Helicopters

Flying High: Roman Abramovich’s Impressive Aircraft Fleet

Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire and Oligarch, possesses an impressive array of large and opulent private jets. The growth of his private aircraft assortment was necessitated by the demand for swift and convenient travel during his tenure as governor. His most recent acquisition is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, widely regarded as one of the world’s most costly private jets, complete with lavish amenities and cutting-edge features.

Roman Abramovich; first jet was a Boeing Business Jet (VIP modification of Boeing 737-700) with REG P4-GJC.

Boeing 737-700 with REG P4-GJC
Roman’s First Boeing 737-700 with REG P4-GJC

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s ostentatious display of wealth has come back to haunt him. His reported $350 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner, touted as one of the world’s most exorbitantly priced private jets, and his comparatively modest $60 million Gulfstream G650ER have been seized.

Roman Abramovich‘s blatant disregard for the current sanctions imposed on Russia is glaring. Records reveal that he lacked the necessary licenses to transport his American-made airborne mansion back to his home country in March, leading to the prompt confiscation of his prized possessions.

What makes this debacle all the more remarkable is the sheer opulence of Roman Abramovich Dreamliner. Industry insiders now confirm that it stands as one of the most technologically advanced and extravagantly equipped private jets in the world. From a dining room spacious enough to accommodate a banquet to a cinematic viewing experience reminiscent of a high-end movie theater, it boasts private bedrooms, bathrooms, and even a walk-in closet. Moreover, the aircraft is fortified with security measures rivaling those of Air Force One, including space to house an entire security detail.

In an era where economic inequality and the flaunting of wealth are under increasing scrutiny, Abramovich’s situation serves as a glaring example of excessive opulence meeting a harsh reality check.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

50 million dollars
Gulfstream G650ER

$60 million 

Eurocopter EC155 B1 M-HELI

LX-RAY$65 million
Roman Abramovich’s Impressive Aircraft Fleet

Boeing 787 P4-BDL

 Exterior shot of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
 Exterior shot of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The aircraft sporting the registration code “P4-BDL” claims its membership in the Boeing 787 lineage, a widely recognized category of expansive, long-haul commercial planes that go by the moniker “Dreamliner.” The “P4” element of this code, by convention, designates its official registration in Aruba, where “P4” serves as the telltale sign of Aruban-registered aircraft. Meanwhile, the “BDL” segment functions as the unique identifier within Aruba’s registration system, attempting to set this specific aircraft apart from its counterparts.

These registration codes, seemingly crafted with utmost exclusivity, supposedly facilitate the regulatory and operational oversight of individual planes by relevant authorities and airlines. If you should happen to harbour any insatiable thirst for additional particulars or possess queries of a more particular nature regarding this Boeing 787, currently masquerading as “P4-BDL,” kindly supply the requisite context, and I shall endeavor to furnish the information you so desire.

The cabin of the Boeing Dreamliner can host up to 50 passengers.
 The cabin of the Boeing Dreamliner can host up to 50 passengers.
The private bedroom on board the Boeing Dreamliner is big enough for a king-sized bed.
The private bedroom on board the Boeing Dreamliner is big enough for a king-sized bed.

Jet boasts the inclusion of captain-style recliner chairs, a designated space for business meetings by the windows, and enough room to accommodate a grand dining table for banquets. Additionally, those seeking rest can retire to a separate bedroom that appears sufficiently spacious to house a king-sized bed and a nightstand. Furthermore, a sprawling bathroom with his-and-hers sinks, opulent white marble countertops, and a walk-in shower that rivals the luxury of a Four Seasons spa is also at one’s disposal, with a walk-in closet cleverly integrated into this lavish restroom.

From a technical perspective, the Boeing 787 exhibits noteworthy features such as a low cabin altitude, superior air quality, and dimmable windows, which permit passengers to keep their window shades open throughout the flight without causing inconvenience to fellow travellers.

Gulfstream G650ER

The Gulfstream G650 is an exceptionally long-range jet, commonly configured with three cabin sections, and it boasts an impressive travel range of 7,000 nautical miles. This aircraft has been in production since 2014, and approximately 489 G650 and G650ER aircraft have been manufactured to date.


12,960 km

Unit Cost

64,500,000–70,000,000 USD (2013)

30 m

Engine Type 

Gulfstream Aerospace

Cruise speed:
 956 km/h
Top Speed1,133 km/h
Gulfstream G650ER
Gulfstream G650
Gulfstream G650

Eurocopter EC155 B1 M-HELI

The Eurocopter EC155, now known as the Airbus Helicopters H155, is a passenger transport helicopter designed for civil aviation use. It belongs to the Dauphin family and is capable of long-range medium-lift operations. This twin-engine aircraft can accommodate between 13 passengers and 1 or 2 crew members, depending on the specific configuration chosen by the customer. The helicopter is primarily marketed for various purposes, including passenger transportation, offshore support, VIP corporate transport, and casualty transport. In 2015, the EC155 underwent a formal name change to H155 as part of Eurocopter’s rebranding as Airbus Helicopters.

Luxury Apartment of Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich’s ostentatious 15-bedroom monstrosity, nestled just a stone’s throw away from Kensington Palace, stands as a testament to excessiveness in every negative sense. This overblown abode, perched on the ostentatious Kensington Palace Gardens, infamously known as the ‘billionaires’ playground,’ was snatched up in 2009 for the obscene sum of £90 million. In the midst of London’s relentless property price surge, this mansion, if it can even be dignified with such a title, now boasts a minimum valuation of £125 million, according to local real estate vultures, with no signs of its insatiable appetite for appreciation abating.

Kensington Palace Gardens London Home of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Kensington Palace Gardens London Home of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Kensington Palace Gardens London Home of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

In an act of sheer audacity in 2016, approval was granted to further bloat this Grade II listed eyesore by an additional 4,000 square feet, incorporating an indoor pool to drown in extravagance, a larger outdoor terrace to showcase excess, and even more space to house an army of servants catering to the whims of the super-rich.

Thames-side penthouse – £22m

Apartments in Sir Terry Farrell’s Chelsea Waterfront Tower begin at a price of £2 million. However, back in 2017, Roman Abramovich did something remarkable – he purchased the three-story penthouse located on the 35th floor of this Thames-side building. Featuring a 360-degree view of the city, 6,000 square feet of living space, and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s evident why the Chelsea owner found this investment so appealing.

Fyning Hill Estate – £18m

Chelsea for £140 million, Roman Abramovich had already lost ownership of the Fyning Hill Estate to his ex-wife during their divorce settlement.

Back in 1999, the wealthy oil magnate ventured into the UK property market by purchasing the West Sussex estate from Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer for £12 million.

Fyning Hill Estate
Fyning Hill Estate

Currently valued at £18 million, this development encompasses 424 acres and includes five houses and nine cottages, along with an impressive eight-bedroom mansion.

Irina Maladina, Abramovich’s former wife, still possesses the residence to this day, having received the property in 2007 as part of their separation agreement.

Chelsea flat – £9m

Abramovich purchased a flat in Cheyne Terrace, Chelsea, for £8.75 million, which is in close proximity to the previously mentioned development at the former Lots Road power station.

This more discreet property in West London includes amenities such as a temperature-controlled wine cellar, a gym, and a spa.

Chateau de la Croe – £87m

From London to the French Riviera, Abramovich has invested millions in renovating the Chateau de la Croe ever since he acquired the spacious villa in 2001. Situated in the southern region of France, this property has previously welcomed esteemed guests such as the Duke of Windsor and Winston Churchill and is currently appraised at a staggering £87 million. Featuring a rooftop swimming pool, along with a basement equipped with a gym and cinema, this is merely one of Abramovich’s numerous vacation residences.

Abramovich - Chateau de la Croe
Abramovich – Chateau de la Croe

                             Abramovich now holidays at the Chateau de la Croe

Colorado ski ranch – £18m

Colorado ski ranch
Colorado ski ranch

Abramovich acquired an impressive ranch in 2008 for £18 million. Situated on Wildcat Ridge, close to the renowned Aspen resort often frequented by Hollywood celebrities, this sprawling 200-acre property boasts 11 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, giving it an air of luxury befitting a character right out of a James Bond film.

Yachts and Superyachts of Roman Abramovich

The Eclipse Yacht
Umbra A
Yachts and Superyachts of Roman Abramovich

The Eclipse Yacht

Roman Abramovich can proudly claim ownership of the Eclipse, which boasts the dubious honor of being the world’s most exorbitantly priced yacht. This opulent vessel, painstakingly constructed in Hamburg by Blohm and Voss back in 2010, has recently been spotted lurking in Turkish waters. One can’t help but wonder if this strategic relocation serves a rather convenient purpose, namely, evading the international sanctions aimed at Russian oligarchs, which threaten to seize this ostentatious plaything.

Eclipse Yacht
Eclipse Yacht
Eclipse Yacht
Eclipse Yacht
Eclipse Yacht
Eclipse Yacht



The second most exorbitant addition to Abramovich’s ostentatious maritime collection is the colossal Solaris, boasting staggering dimensions of 458 feet in length and an astonishing 11,011 tons of maritime excess. Initial reports indicated a jaw-dropping price tag of $475 million, but conflicting sources suggest the actual cost could be an even more absurd $600 million. These figures, however, remain shrouded in the secrecy that Abramovich, a master of discretion in such matters, consistently maintains.

While the vessel theoretically accommodates 36 privileged passengers in 18 lavishly appointed cabins, it also boasts quarters for up to 60 dutiful crew members, further underscoring the extravagant scale of this maritime monstrosity. Despite its immense proportions and lavish design, the specifics of its onboard amenities, such as potential indoor swimming pools, remain frustratingly elusive, with minimal information divulged in any discerning yacht reports.

The Solaris allegedly reaches a top speed of 18 to 20 knots, with a more leisurely cruising pace of 14 knots. Remarkably, it flaunts not just a mundane pool but flaunts an extravagant helicopter landing pad atop its deck. Propelling this maritime behemoth is the grandiose ABB Azipod propulsion package, the largest of its kind ever employed in the realm of private yachts.

In a display of sheer opulence, Solaris is said to boast an astonishing 2,000 square meters of glass, featuring the most colossal panes ever witnessed in the realm of superyachts. Yet, despite this unabashed showcase of extravagance, it’s essential to note that, at the time of the last available report, the yacht found refuge in Turkey, conveniently evading the international sanctions that have befallen its Russian oligarch owner.


luxury boat Halo
luxury boat Halo

Abramovich’s third priciest luxury boat, priced at $38 million and measuring 180 feet in length, was crafted by Amels. This vessel is occasionally open for charter and boasts accommodations for 12 guests and 13 crew members. With a maximum speed of 15.5 knots and an impressive range of 4,500 nautical miles, it can reach far-flung destinations. When cruising, the yacht maintains a steady speed of 13 knots.



The Garcon, despite being bigger than the Halo, comes with a lower price tag. It was said to have a cost of $20 million, yet it measures 220 feet in length. Manufactured by Damen Yachting, it has occasionally served as a support vessel in the past and can accommodate a total of 21 individuals. The Garcon stands out as a notably swifter yacht compared to others of similar dimensions, thanks to its four Caterpillar engines that enable it to achieve a top speed of 25 knots when pushed to the limit. Its typical cruising speed, on the other hand, settles at a comfortable 18 knots.

Umbra A

This Bluegame yacht, valued at $1 million, is significantly smaller than his other vessels, with a length of only 40 feet.


Very limited information is available regarding this specific yacht, except for its 80-foot size and the reported purchase price of $3 million by Abramovich.



This luxurious yacht, measuring 162 feet in length and valued at $11 million, has been docked in La Ciotat, located along the stunning French Riviera, since the year 2022. Constructed back in 1998, it boasts a substantial 27.5-foot width. Propelled by the potent Paxman + Textron engines, each generating a formidable 3442 horsepower, Sussurro can attain an impressive top speed of 46 knots, while its cruising speed is a comfortable 20 knots. These remarkable specifications make it one of the swiftest yachts of its size globally.


The luxurious yacht boasts a length of 164 feet and is said to have been acquired for a hefty sum of $30 million. It is equipped with MTU diesel engines that enable it to reach a maximum speed of 23 knots. The yacht offers accommodations for up to 12 guests across 5 staterooms, along with a dedicated crew of 9 to attend to their needs.

Land Holdings of Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich Extensive Land Holdings

Land at Stamford BridgeFulham, London
KingsmeadowKingston, London
Four Plots of Land in CobhamSurrey, England
Stamford Bridge Athletic GroundsFulham, London
Land at Stamford Bridge Chelsea VillageFulham, London
Roman Abramovich Extensive Land Holdings

Commercial Real Estate of Roman Abramovich

ValueCommercial Real StateLocation
11,900,000 $Chelsea Village Hotel ApartmentFulham, London
29,200,000$Kingsmeadow Football StadiumKingston, London
31,000,000$Chelsea Village Hotel PenthouseFulham, London
49,200,000$Kingsmeadow Football StadiumKingston, London, United Kingdom
5UnknownLeasehold of Stamford Bridge StadiumFulham, London
6UnknownChelsea Village Hotel ApartmentFulham, London
7UnknownLand and Buildings in Wansdown PlaceFulham, London
8UnknownCommercial BlockFulham, London
93,600,000$Chelsea FC Training Ground ResidencySurrey, England
10UnknownFulham Chelsea Hotel ApartmentsLondon
11770,000 $ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#2Fulham, London
129,20,000$ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#3Fulham, London
131,400,000ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#4Fulham, London
14970,000$ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#5Fulham, London
15760,000 $ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#6Fulham, London
16940,000 $ChelseaVillage Hotel Apartments#7Fulham, London
171,000,0000 $ChelseaVillage Hotel PenthouseFulham, London United Kingdom
181,900,000 $ChelseaVillage Hotel ApartmentFulham, London
Commercial Real Estate of Roman Abramovich
1,800,000ChelseaVillage Hotel ApartmentFulham, London
UnknownChelseaVillage Leisure ComplexFulham, London
Commercial Real Estate of Roman Abramovich

Companies owned by Roman Abramovich

Ervington Investments Limited$352,000,000Cyprus
Chelsea Football Club$2,558,600,000London, UK, United Kingdom
Akula Collection LtdLondon
Evraz Plc.$3,381,258,400London, UK
Chelsea Digital Ventures LimitedLondon, U.K
Companies owned by Roman Abramovich

Mansions and Houses of Roman Abramovich

Kensington Palace Gardens mansion$164,800,000Kensington, London
West Sussex Estate$24,122,463Sussex
Belgravia Townhouse$17,785,992Belgravia, London
Belgravia Townhouse$18,168,155Belgravia, London
Chalet in Aspen$11,800,000Aspen, Colorado, US
Apartment Next to Stamford Bridge Stadium #2$1,500,000 Fulham, London
Large House on Lake Fuschl$15,300,000Salzburg, Austria
House next to Stamford Bridge Stadium$1,300,000Fulham, London
Estate in Saint TropezUnknownSaint Tropez, France
Seaside estate on the French Riviera$55,000,000Antibes, France
Terraced House in Kensington$2,700,000Kensington, London
Tor Gardens residence$24,029,507 Kensington, London
House near Champs-Élysées$17,526,160 Paris, France
Companies owned by Roman Abramovich

11. Stud Farms and Horses – The Equestrian Passion: Roman Abramovich’s Stud Farms and Horses

12. Trusts and Investments – Strategic Investments: Roman Abramovich’s Financial Holdings and Trusts

13. Other Notable Assets – Beyond the Ordinary: Roman Abramovich’s Unique Collections and Assets

Art collection of Roman Abramovich

Upon initial inspection, the red-brick facade adjacent to a series of railway arches might appear to be an ordinary warehouse in South London.

However, to a more attentive observer, several distinguishing features become apparent. Spiked railings encircle the premises, guarding a formidable steel door, and imposing metal gates that allow for the passage of lorries.

On a chilly February day in 2014, an exceptional and unorthodox artwork departed from this modest stronghold: a nude masterpiece created by the renowned painter Lucian Freud. Titled “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” the painting is a captivating study of one of Freud’s most celebrated models, captured in repose on a well-worn sofa, her flesh’s intricate contours masterfully rendered on the canvas. It is widely acknowledged as a modern masterpiece.

In the autumn of 1930, Kazimir Malevich, the pioneering avant-garde artist and leader of the Suprematist movement, found himself arrested and facing the threat of execution. Malevich, who was born in Kyiv during the time when it was still part of the Russian Empire, had played a significant role in the development of abstract art.

However, during the harsh rule of Joseph Stalin, he became a target in a relentless and brutal campaign against modernist art, which the Communist Party deemed bourgeois. Malevich’s artworks endured a tumultuous journey over the course of nearly a century. They were initially hidden from the Nazis for safekeeping and subsequently transported to various locations worldwide, including the Netherlands and the United States.

The heirs of Malevich fought legal battles to reclaim his paintings. In 2000, one of his pieces, “Suprematist Composition, circa 1919-20,” was put up for auction after the Museum of Modern Art in New York was compelled to return it. The identity of the buyer was never disclosed, but by 2013, the artwork, a symbol of Russian art and political history, was in the possession of Roman Abramovich.

Recent records of the artwork’s movements reveal that it was transported to and from the warehouses of a British art storage specialist, formerly known as Martinspeed and now called Crozier Fine Arts. A spokesperson for the company stated, “Crozier is a well-established company with global operations, and our practice is to comply with the laws of the countries where we conduct business.”

Much like Freud’s artwork, Malevich’s masterpiece traversed the Thames to and from Abramovich’s residence. In 2014, it was loaned to the Tate Modern for a retrospective exhibition. The label next to the canvas, which featured black and red rectangles symbolizing the creation of a new reality for Malevich, simply stated “private collection,” a common practice when lenders prefer to remain anonymous.

Other artworks, including US abstract painter Cy Twombly’s “Untitled Roma,” were also summoned from storage, along with pieces by Auerbach and the Scottish painter known for his ironic pastorals, Peter Doig. Abramovich had the luxury of enjoying his collection not only in London but also on his yacht and at Château de la Croë, his 1920s mansion on the Cap d’Antibes peninsula of the Côte d’Azur, a former retreat of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

Many more exquisite pieces, some valued in the millions, were imported and exported internationally, transported by air and truck through locations such as Geneva, Moscow, New York, and Liège. Managing such a well-traveled collection incurred significant costs, but these expenses paled in comparison to the amount spent on acquiring the artworks.

According to documents reviewed by The Guardian, as of 2018, Abramovich had amassed 367 pieces with a total value of $963 million.

value of the collection, which included more than 300 pieces

The significant investment resulted in benefits that extended beyond the artworks themselves. The collection likely played a crucial role in propelling Abramovich and Zhukova to the forefront of the global art scene.

Art world aristocracy

In June 2008, during the year they got married, the couple organized the official launch of their new project, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. Initially, the gallery was situated in a disused Soviet bus depot and was financially supported by Abramovich.

Notable guests at the event included the artist Jeff Koons, who mingled with a glamorous crowd enjoying Ruinart champagne. Amy Winehouse also performed a private concert. At the event, Zhukova unveiled an installation by the Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, featuring an interactive tree with thousands of lights pulsating to the rhythm of her heartbeat. Abramovich looked on with pride, and the couple later danced.

Zhukova, the daughter of a Moscow oil trader, experienced her parents’ separation when she was young and grew up in the United States. Her ability to effortlessly navigate elite social circles and her knowledge of art, combined with Abramovich’s wealth, have firmly established her in the art world’s upper echelons.

Today, apart from overseeing the Garage Museum, she also serves as a trustee for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unlike her former spouse, from whom she separated in 2016, Zhukova, who has since remarried, is a U.S. citizen and is not subject to sanctions in any jurisdiction. She has also publicly criticized Russia’s “acts of war” in Ukraine.

Her two children with Abramovich were born in the United States, and she is raising her family there.

She maintains a connection to her ex-husband through their art collection, as indicated by the documents.

The documents, which cover events until March 2022, reveal that a company named Seline-Invest, initially registered in the British Virgin Islands and later moved to Jersey in 2017, owned the art pieces. It acquired these artworks in 2017 and 2018 from the Harmony Trust, of which Abramovich was the sole beneficiary, through a series of 11 transactions.

Seline-Invest, in turn, was controlled by a Cyprus-based trust called the Ermis Trust Settlement, initially established in 2010 for Abramovich’s sole benefit.

In January 2021, according to the documents, the trustees and protectors of the trust, who were a combination of Abramovich’s employees and directors of MeritServus, added Zhukova as an “additional” beneficiary, with their children set to become beneficiaries upon Abramovich’s passing. At that point, both Zhukova and her former husband each held a 50% beneficial interest.

However, on February 4, 2022, three weeks before the Ukraine invasion, the documents suggest that the trustees and protectors made changes, possibly prompted by the looming threat of sanctions, according to experts.

percentage of the Ermis Trust’s distributions to which Zhukova became entitled in February 2022

Through a “deed of amendment,” Zhukova gained an irreversible entitlement to 51% of the trust’s distributions, while Abramovich’s share was reduced to a minority beneficiary with 49%. Subsequently, in late February, a new deed prevented Abramovich from increasing his interest in the trust.

Less than a month later, on March 10, the UK imposed sanctions on Abramovich, resulting in the freezing of his assets, including Chelsea football club. The EU also sanctioned him shortly thereafter, and he is currently appealing the decision, claiming he was targeted due to his high profile rather than meeting the criteria. The US has not imposed sanctions on him.

Under EU, UK, and US regulations, any asset owned by an individual under sanctions exceeding 50% can be subject to freezing.

“The 50% rule operates somewhat differently in various jurisdictions,” explained Tom Keatinge, the director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. “But under any interpretation of the rules, it would have been advantageous to reduce the interest of a trust beneficiary likely to be sanctioned. Much of this occurred in the lead-up to the war, with the aim of shielding assets from sanctioning authorities.”

“It’s a very common practice,” noted another expert in EU sanctions law, who preferred to remain anonymous. “This has always been the case when sanctions are imposed, but the scale has never been so significant, and it has now become a matter of national security for Europeans.”

Abramovich declined to provide a comment on the matter.

It’s important to note that there is no indication that Zhukova has taken any actions to undermine sanctions, including regarding the art collection. The art was owned by the trust rather than her, and she had no authority to make decisions on its behalf. It’s understood that no pieces from the collection have been sold or disposed of since the change in beneficial interest in February the previous year.

Zhukova has publicly denounced the invasion, expressing her condemnation immediately after the outbreak of hostilities: “As someone born in Russia, I unequivocally condemn these acts of war, and I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, as well as with the millions of Russians who feel the same way,” she stated.

A collection that looks like a billion dollars

In 2017, when Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at auction for $450 million, it marked a new world record. This landmark transaction was orchestrated with the assistance of Sanford Heller, a well-known expert in the art world. Heller had provided guidance to the seller, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Operating from offices in New York and Paris, Heller is renowned for his role as a facilitator in the art world. He arranges loans for exhibitions and directs affluent collectors towards artworks that enhance their standing as connoisseurs.

In 2011, according to documents, Heller’s firm was retained by Abramovich’s Cyprus-based Harmony Trust on a yearly retainer of $500,000, maintaining this relationship for six years. The contract between the trust and Heller Group, discovered in the files, stipulated that the firm would offer advice on art purchases and sales and even had the authority to act on behalf of the trust in auction proceedings.

Even before Heller’s involvement, Abramovich, accompanied by Zhukova, demonstrated a willingness to make substantial art investments. In 2008, over the course of a single weekend, they spent more than $100 million. Shortly after acquiring Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, they set a new record for a postwar work by purchasing Bacon’s Triptych at Sotheby’s for $86 million.

paid for Francis Bacon’s Triptych at Sotheby’s

With Heller’s expertise readily available, the spending continued, and at least 10 pieces in the collection were either purchased for or valued at over $25 million. The theme of war is a recurring motif in the artworks they amassed.

For instance, Bacon’s Triptych, inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” depicting colonial violence, serves as a grim allegory of the modern condition. It portrays a bird pecking at human innards between two imposing, fascistic faces. In addition, there’s a striking standing figure by Giacometti, symbolizing humanity after the Holocaust, and Anselm Kiefer’s contemplative reflections on 20th-century conflict.

Now that war has resurfaced in Europe, the collection’s status is uncertain. Its current location is not publicly disclosed, and there are no recent records of its significant pieces being loaned to galleries. The company responsible for managing the trust’s paperwork and supplying some of its directors, MeritServus, is under sanctions, and its website has been taken down.

The last known public loan appears to have occurred between July and October 2021 when two works by Rego were exhibited at her Tate Britain retrospective. Notably, in October 2022, when Britain’s National Gallery held the first major Lucian Freud exhibition in a decade, pieces from the Abramovich-Zhukova collection were conspicuously absent. While the collection isn’t subject to asset freezing orders, Abramovich’s sanctions hindered a loan agreement with the Ermis Trust.

Art market expert Georgina Adam expressed regret, stating, “It is unfortunate that the trust holding these artworks appears to be unable to lend them. These sanctions were imposed for a valid reason, and now the result of Mr. Abramovich’s art investments is that the public is denied the chance to appreciate some of the finest modern and contemporary works.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button