More Rubles, More Problems: The Ongoing Saga of the $88 M. Rybolovlev Apartment

rybolovlev for web More Rubles, More Problems: The Ongoing Saga of the $88 M. Rybolovlev Apartment

She's suing me for how much?

Elena Rybolovleva has an $88 million bee in her bonnet. Mrs. Rybolovleva has locked horns with her husband, Russian oligarch and fertilizer king Dmitry Rybolovev, in a bitter divorce battle, with his reported $9 billion at the center of the fracas. The international battle royale has spilled into New York, where Mrs. Rybolovleva has accused her husband of purchasing Sandy Weill’s prize $88 million condo at 15 Central Park West in an effort to divert funds in advance of the impending divorce.

The Observer spoke with David Newman, a partner at the law firm Day Pitney who is representing Mrs. Rybolovleva in the case. Encouraging us to refer to the unhappy couple as Mr. and Mrs. R. to avoid tongue twisting and Ruskie butchering, Mr. Newman launched into an animated and calculated attack against Mr. Rybolovlev and his (alleged) nefarious asset shuffling.

At the heart of the issue is a Swiss court order, mandating that Mr. Rybolovlev refrain from spending money acquired during the period of his marriage until the courts decide the fate of his considerable finances. Purchasing the apartment in New York was a flagrant violation of the order, Mr. Newman contended. “It’s almost as if Mr. R. has no concern about the law! Its almost he doesn’t care seem to care about the Swiss court order. It must be because he thinks that rich people have a different set of rules to live by,” Mr. Newman said emphatically.

Thus far, Mr. R.’s camp has been tight-lipped about the proceedings, though we did obtain the following statement from spokesperson Sergey Chernitsyn: “The divorce proceedings between the Rybolovlev spouses have been pending for several years. During this period, Mrs. Rybolovleva’s lawyers have filed numerous groundless complaints in several countries and jurisdictions without achieving any meaningful results. Most of the claims made in these suits as well as in the suit recently filed in New York are false and based on information Mrs. Rybolovleva knows to be incorrect.”

Mr. Newman, however, incredulously rebuffed the statement from Mr. Rybolovlev’s camp. “He’s just using the trust as a vehicle. The point is, he’s using it as a second step, to remove those assets and make sure that Mrs. R. needs even a longer arm to get the assets.”

A source from his office explained that the apartment was purchased by a trust in the name of Mr. Rybolovleva’s daughter, Ekaterina Rybolovleva. The oligarch claims to be neither a trustee nor a beneficiary of the trust, and as such is not legally associated with the property. The trusts, the source claims, were established well before the divorce, and Mrs. Rybolovleva participated in their creation. Ekaterina does not intend to live in the apartment, and the property was purchased solely for investment purposes.

While it remains unclear exactly how the 22-year-old Ekaterina fits into the convoluted legal equation, Mr. Newman said one thing is clear: “I think she’s living the life of daddy’s girl, a very well-to-do daddy’s girl and she has a very nice lifestyle,” he said. While the daughter’s involvement “adds a little bit of sexiness,” Mr. Newman said, legally the straw-daughter machination is beside the point. “The bottom line is there is no doubt that he’s trying to leave no assets available to Mrs. R. Anything beyond that I can’t figure out,” Mr. Newman said.

The Observer has learned that the younger Ms. Rybolovleva is currently working to obtain her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and is working on global philanthropic projects, the details of which have not yet been announced.

Adding to the intrigue, Mr. Newman revealed that Mr. Rybolovlev is no stranger to 15 Central Park West. The oligarch and his soon-to-be-ex-wife actually looked in the building together in 2008 before all the marital unpleasantness began, he claims. “They looked at apartments in 15 CPW. They wanted to see the Weill apartment but it wasn’t available. They looked at one or two other apartments in that building, they looked in the Plaza, and other very-high-end buildings but ultimately, decided not to buy there but in Florida.” The home they settled on was not just any Florida mansion, but Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate, for which they paid $95 million. Mr. Newman is also representing Mrs. Rybolovev in an ongoing lawsuit regarding the ownership of that estate.

We contacted Brown Harris Stevens agent, Maria Torresy, who supposedly represented Mr. Rybolovlev on both the Palm Beach and the Central Park West purchases. “I never discuss my customers or my clients,” she said flatly. “So there’s nothing I can really do to help or add to this conversation.”

eknutsen@observer.com