Once upon a time the Russians assassinated their Czars. A little later, they overthrew their Communist kings. But, as tends to happen in a vacuum, a new breed of royalty has oozed in to fill the power gap. In the absence of anyone else to model unbridled consumption, the Russians have their own brand of uber-rich captains of industry and entrepreneurial moguls. (Not to mention their own brand of Mafia some of whom have apparently taken up residence in Brooklyn.)
Which goes to show that to the fattest bankroll goes all the toys.
I don’t know much about captains of industry in Russia, but I do know that when I was there I was warned to steer clear of the Mafia. These guys cruise around in flashy suits and big black cars looking like cookies cut from Soprano dough. One nice middle-aged lady in our group was firmly ushered out of a bank between two of these dudes when she bumbled in to exchange some cash. (For the record, I was not that lady.)
So, last week as I enjoyed the view from Avery Fisher Hall during my tour of Lincoln Center, I wasn’t surprised to learn that I was looking (way) up at the palace, I mean apartment, of a Russian princess. I mean, heiress.
I had heard of the beautiful Ekatarina’s purchase of the apartment of the former Citigroup chairman at 15 Central Park West. I had heard that her daddy paid the full asking price of (are you sitting?) $88 million, making this the largest real estate transaction in the city’s history. Since Mr. Citi had bought the place for $42.4 million merely a couple years earlier, this must be the most poorly negotiated real estate deal as well.
When Mr. Citi listed the apartment, he mentioned something about giving the proceeds to charity. Hmmm. Maybe he got confused and thought he was one of the schmucks (like me) who would probably end up selling at a loss. If he sold at all.
But people who live in large spaces at stratospheric heights are not like us. And this Russian heiress, whose father made his billions in fertilizer and was, incidently, tried for the murder of an acquaintance, will party in her 6744-square-foot pad only when she visits the city when on break from her grueling studies at an undisclosed American university. At 22, shouldn’t she have graduated?
So there I was, looking up at the impregnable fortress of people who are incomprehensibly rich.
And quite possibly of people so poor that all they have is money.