Back in late January 2011 real estate gossips around the world were salivating and foaming at the mouth over the scandalicious reports in Russian media outlets that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was allegedly and secretly engaged in the construction of a vast and palatial mansion in the Black Sea resort town of Praskoveevka. The controversy was not that Prime Minister Putin might want a holiday house . He is, after all, a very wealthy man who can surely afford to buy or build a large and luxurious holiday house at the beach. The real scandal was that a man who claimed business connections with Prime Minister Putin publicly alleged in an detailed open letter to a Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that the prime minister was using state funds to pay for the project.
The story got it start back in 2009 but didn't get any real traction in the international media and blogsphere until early January (2011) when a clandestine cache of photographs of a titanic tsar-worthy residence was leaked by an anonymous individual and posted on Ruleaks, a naughty naughty website that publishes Russian translations of documents posted by the naughty naughty folks at Wikileaks.
Despite the publication of what Novaya Gazeta claimed to be a copy of the original contract for the purchase of the property signed in 2005 by Vladimir Kozhin, the Kremlin property manager, Prime Minister Putin publicly denied through his press secretary Dmitri Peskov that he had any involvement in or ownership of the mall-sized mansion.
All the denials by Prime Minister Putin and his people, however, did not stop the press from dubbing the place Putin's Palace. It didn't help Prime Minister Putin's desire to deny ownership that there were first hand reports of the prime minister visiting the property numerous times and it really didn't help that at least one report in the Russian media claimed a desk bearing the Russian coast of arms shown in the leaked photos is identical to one in Prime Minister Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence.
The latest reports to slip-slide down the international real estate gossip grapevine reveal that the bloated Neoclassical meets Italianate villa was recently sold. That's right, sold. Now buckle your real estate safety belts, butter beans, pour yourself a stiff gin & tonic and get a nerve pill down in you because the Putin's (alleged) palace was reportedly sold for around $350,000,000. That is an utterly obscene amount of money by any stretch of the imagination but it's also a far cry from the billion bucks it has been reported were spent on the construction of the colossal affair. Either the reports of the billion dollar construction costs were erroneous or the property was sold at a death-defying $650,000,000 loss.
The property was formally owned and sold by a man named Nikolai Shamalov who happens to be a b.f.f. of Prime Minister Putin. It was acquired by Russian billionaire businessman Alexander Ponomarenko who told the Russian media that Mister Putin's alleged ownership was little more than "rumors and journalist fiction" and that the property is slated to be a hotel and commercial complex.
Previous reports indicate the house (or hotel or whatever) measures in at an unbelievable and unrealistic sounding 750,000 square meters, a figure that Your Mama's conversion contraption shows amounts to a ridiculous 8,072,999 square feet. Just to give the children some perspective, that's about 45-times the size of the average Wal-Mart Supercenter and about 325-times the size of one of the 25,000 square foot mega-mansions in the steroidal Los Angeles enclave of Beverly Park.
However humongous the house (or hotel or whatever), the timing of the sale, just weeks after the international media shit storm regarding the costs and alleged ownership, is certainly suspicious ain't it?