Russian oligarch admits he leads an "extravagant" life

Tue Nov 1, 2011 2:51pm EDT
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By Olesya Dmitracova

LONDON (Reuters) - Billionaire Roman Abramovich was forced to swallow his words in a London court Tuesday, when details of his luxury lifestyle undermined his declaration that he never wanted to imitate the extravagances of rival Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

The pair are locked in a $6 billion legal battle in London's Commercial Court, with Berezovsky accusing his former protege of intimidating him in 2000 into selling shares in oil company Sibneft at a fraction of their value.

Abramovich, 45, denies that Berezovsky ever had an interest in the company.

The court heard about Abromovich's plush properties and holidays, drawing laughter after the Chelsea soccer club owner wrote in his witness statement that in 1994 he was surprised by Berezovsky's "extravagant lifestyle," adding: "I was never interested in imitating his lifestyle."

When quizzed by Berezovsky's lawyer, Abramovich agreed that he had bought a 420-acre estate in England, an expensive flat in an exclusive central London area and a chateau in France which once belonged to the Duke of Windsor, as Britain's King Edward VIII was known after his abdication in 1936.

"You now want to qualify that, do you, to say, whilst you weren't interested in an extravagant lifestyle then, you may have an extravagant lifestyle now?" asked the lawyer, Laurence Rabinowitz.

Abramovich agreed, speaking in Russian via an interpreter in a courtroom packed with bodyguards and banks of lawyers and aides.

The list of Abramovich's skiing holidays in the luxury resort of Courchevel and in Megeve, both in the French Alps, and yachting cruises in the Caribbean are some of the latest glimpses into the luxury lives of the Russian-born tycoons.   Continued...

<p>Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich leaves a division of the High Court during a break for lunch in central London October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>