- The Russian elite own over half a billion dollars worth of upscale real estate in Manhattan
- Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has expressed support for seizing these assets
- Russian investment in New York City fell off after the invasion of Crimea in 2014
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters into its second week, Western nations have intensified sanctions against the country’s elite, including Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
On Saturday, the White House announced that the United States would begin to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs, including their superyachts, upscale real estate, and “any other ill-gotten gains” that authorities can find and legally seize.
—The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 26, 2022
The calls to take steps against ultrawealthy Russians seen as close to Putin are getting louder, both as a way of condemning Russia and exerting pressure on Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine. Leading businessmen and politicians with ties to Russia have amassed enormous personal wealth since the fall of the Soviet Union, and some have spent their fortunes on yachts, sports teams, and luxury homes.
The sanctions are hitting Russia’s economy and its stock market hard, and they’ve cost the Russian elite a lot of wealth. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index says that the 21 richest people in Russia have lost a total of $84 billion this year. Almost half of that came the day after the invasion began, as Russia’s stock market crashed.
Last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan called for the seizure of oligarch-owned properties in his city. The 100 properties identified by the mayor’s office as belonging to members of Putin’s inner ring are worth a combined total of £1.1 billion, or $1.46 billion, the Independent reports.
However, locations within the United States, such as south Florida and New York City has also been a well-established favorite for oligarch investments in high-end properties. For instance, just six ultrawealthy men with ties to Russia an Russian industry have collectively spent $572 million on properties in New York City, according to the New York Post. The majority of the New York properties are clustered around Cental Park in Manhattan.
“New York has always been the dream and to buy a piece of real estate is the dream realized,” Victoria Shtainer, a high-end real estate broker and attorney for Compass, tells Insider. “This was their time to take the best of the best.”
Shtainer says she handled 25 to 30 sales to Russian buyers from around 2007 to 2014. The largest was a $20 million condo sale in the Upper East Side. But she says those deals dried up after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, which prompted international sanctions and travel bans against prominent Russians and major companies.
“We had the sanctions come in in the Obama presidency and his administrations hit these oligarchs very hard and they decided to shift their interests into real estate in other places,” she said. Those places included London, Miami, the South of France, and Dubai.
Similiar to Khan in London, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has also called on the federal government to seize the oligarch-owned properties in New York. However, Levine and the city’s other borough presidents don’t have the power to take such a step. But the escalating tensions in Ukraine could mean that the United State federal government intends to take action to freeze — or potentially seize — these upscale properties.
It’s day 5 of Russia’s reprehensible war on Ukraine.
We’re still waiting for the U.S. gov’t to place the broad circle of oligarchs connected to Putin on the sanctions list.
This is the prerequisite to seizing the ultra luxe apartments many hold in Manhattan.
Let’s do it NOW.
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) February 28, 2022
New York is a desirable market for cultural and business reasons and high end apartments can be a very profitable investment, but US laws that allow the wealthy to buy property and shield their identities behind limited liability companies are also a likely factor.
Here is a quick list of just some of the known New York real estate properties, and purchase prices, identified by the New York Post. None of the following individuals have been the target of personal sanctions in 2022, although one buyer, Oleg Deripaska, was a target of US sanctions in 2018.
Roman Abramovich, known as “Putin’s banker” and an owner of numerous businesses and the Chelsea football club, has an estimated worth of $13 billion (Forbes) to $14 billion (Bloomberg). He bought the following properties, which he later transferred to his ex-wife Dasha Zhukova.
- 9, 11, and 13 East 75th Street (total price: $74 million)
- 15 East 75th Street ($16.5 million)
- 215 East 73rd Street, four floor ($900,000)
Oleg Deripaska, an industrialist, was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 due to “worldwide malign activity.” Forbes says he’s worth $3 billion but those sanctions reportedly cost him billions.
He reportedly bough the following properties and later transferred them to relatives
- 11 East 64th Street ($42.5 million)
- 12 Gay Street ($4.5 million)
Len Blavatnik, a US and UK citizen who was born in Soviet-era Ukraine and made a fortune from acquiring what were previously Soviet state-owned energy and metals companies, and then eventually selling his stake in them. Blavatnik later pivoted to owning and investing in non-Russian entertainment and fashion businesses like Warner Music Group and Tory Burch. His current net worth is believed to be somewhere between $34 billion (Forbes) to $39 billion (Bloomberg).
Here is a list of Blavatnik’s properties in Manhattan:
- 19 East 64th Street ($90 million)
- 834 Fifth Avenue ($80 million)
- 15 East 64th Street ($51 million)
- East 63rd Street ($31.25 million)
- 998 Fifth Avenue, 4W ($27.5 million)
Alexey Kuzmichev, an investor in telecom, tech, and energy and a major shareholder in Russia’s largest private bank, has an estmated wealth of more thna $5 billion by Bloomberg and $6.5 billion by Forbes. He purchased the following:
- 33 East 74th Street ($42 million)
Eugene Shvidler, whose investments include gold, steel, and nickel makers, has an estimated worth of $1.6 billion according to Forbes, bought the following:
- 785 Fifth Avenue, Apartment 17AB ($24.5 million)
Dmitry Rybolovlev, the former owner of potash maker Uralkali, is estimated to be worth $6.5 billion by Forbes and $10.7 billion according to Bloomberg. He’s the reported buyer of the following:
- 15 Central Park West, Penthouse ($88 million)