When Governor Gavin Newsom decided to take the family on a Thanksgiving vacation to Mexico last November, he reportedly rented a $29,000-a-night villa in Cabo San Lucas that came with a chef, butler, chauffeur, fitness instructor, and masseur. Oh, and one other extra that likely wasn’t in the brochure: the privilege of sleeping in a home owned by an oligarch. The house, it turns out, belongs to Oleg Tinkov, a Russian billionaire who recently pleaded guilty in U.S. courts to dodging $248 million in taxes.
Newson’s office later denied the story. Still, you don’t have to go all the way to Mexico to find luxe properties and businesses paid for by superrich Russians with at least tangential relationships with Ukraine invader Vladimir Putin—they’re all over L.A.
Sunset Tower Hotel, for instance, is at least partly owned by Len Blavatnik, who sank $100 million into the place in 2017. The Ukrainian-born Blavatnik, now a British and U.S. citizen, has claimed he hasn’t talked to Putin since 2000. But he’s known to be an associate of industrialist Oleg Deripaska, who, up until late February, was considered Putin’s close personal friend (until Deripaska broke with the Kremlin and publicly called for an end to the Ukrainian war).
There’s also LACMA board member Dasha Zhukova, ex-wife of Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who owns Britain’s vaunted Chelsea soccer team (and who is now reportedly considering selling it to L.A. publishing magnate Todd Boehly). And Sergey Grishin, who recently sold his Montecito mansion to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for $14.6 million. And Danil Khachaturov, a Russian insurance tycoon and Putin pal who purchased a $35 million mansion in Trousdale in an all-cash transaction in 2020.
None of the oligarchs mentioned above, by the way, appear to have been sanctioned by the Biden administration in response to Putin’s Ukrainian invasion. But at least one of them is hurting anyway: Tinkov, Newsom’s alleged Thanksgiving landlord, has reportedly lost more than $5 billion since the war started, as shares of his company have slumped 90 percent. In fact, according to Forbes, he may not even be a billionaire anymore; it estimates Tinkov’s worth as of early March at a measly $800 million.
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