New cool for Russia's super-rich: slumming it
By Guy Faulconbridge and Clara Ferreira-Marques
LONDON (Reuters) - Gone are the Beluga caviar parties and ostentation that marked the arrival of Russia's billionaire barons onto the world stage: the new cool for real oligarchs is a much more modest mingling among the common people.
At least that's how metals magnate Vladimir Potanin, with a fortune of $14.5 billion and ranked as Russia's fourth richest man, sees it.
When asked about the garish ways of some fellow businessmen, the 51-year-old tycoon said: "I am so cool and tough that I don't need guards."
"The really cool and tough people are not those who go everywhere with hundreds of bodyguards - the really cool and tough guys are the ones who go without their bodyguards," said Potanin, who owns a 30-percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel and palladium producer.
Potanin, who sat with the crowds in ordinary seats while attending four days of swimming, basketball, volleyball and handball at the Games, said lavish displays of wealth were insulting and distasteful.
"It is not good to demonstrate your luxury and your wealth: to rub it in the faces of others is insulting," he told Reuters in an interview. "So you should be modest, try not to insult people by showing that you can do what they cannot."
Though he quipped that he drew the line at using London's public transport system, Potanin's decision to dispense with the VIP boxes indicates at least some of Russia's billionaires may be starting to take on the more understated code favored by the established wealthy in Europe, North America and Asia.
Driven in part by a need to appease President Vladimir Putin's distaste for public displays of oligarch opulence, the modesty marks a new stage in the roller coaster history of Russia's most powerful post-Soviet tycoons. Continued...