Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Legal Wrangling Over La Leopolda

International socialite Lily Safra did not want to sell La Leopolda, her lavish and legendarily high-maintenance 20ish acre estate in the South of France. Back in late November of 2009, Your Mama heard from Miz Safra's man in Paris who told us, "A purchase proposal was spontaneously–and repeatedly–made by one potential buyer and was finally accepted last year. However, the purchase was never completed. The residence is not being sold and was never offered for sale." Our little pea brain translates that to: Miz Safra was not–and is still not–seeking a buyer for La Leopolda, but, let's be honest chickens, when someone offers you half a billion bucks for a house, you say yes.

The "potential buyer" was Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who provided Miz Safra a reported £35,000,000 down payment for the purchase of La Leopolda. It is this titanic deposit that has Miz Safra and Mister Prokhorov duking it out in the French courts.

According to a recent report in the Telegraph, Mister Prokhorov's legal people told a court in Nice that in August of 2008 a promesse de vente–that's a sale agreement to all us English speakers–was signed by Mister Prokhorov signaling his intent to purchase the Belle Epoque mansion. The agreed upon price, according to the Telegraph, was a jaw dropping and record breaking £347,000,000, a number that included £17,400,000 for the furnishings.

According to Your Mama's currency converting contraption, those figures translate at today's rates to $50,139, 200 for the deposit, $24,926,400 for the furniture and a total purchase price of $497,095,000. For the sake of simplicity, let's just say that based on the reported numbers, Miz Safra agreed to sell La Leopolda for approximately $475,000,000, the furnishings for an additional twenty-five million clams all of which was secured with a fifty million smacker deposit.

The big deal was to go down in January of 2009 but apparently Mister Prokhorov, who is by some accounts Russia's richest man, got a serious case of the real estate cold feet and decided not to complete the high-priced purchase. He requested his deposit be returned. She said, "nyet," then issued a public statement saying the ginormous deposit would be donated to various charities. She's rich like that. He cried foul. Then they went to court.

Miz Safra's legal people say that, according to French law, purchasers lose their deposit if they bail on the sale after the promesse de vente has been signed. Mister Prokhorov's legal peeps insist the promesse de vente became null and void due to two "anomalies." Their first argument states that Mister Prokhorov was not given a seven day "cooling off" period during which a buyer can typically back out of a sales agreement without penalty.

Their second legal beef is a claim that Miz Safra's legal proxy unlawfully included the agreed upon price for the furniture in with the price of the house making for an inaccurate reporting of the transaction figures to the French government.

Miz Safra's legal peeps said, in effect, "Pffft, that's silly" and then, somewhat curiously, demanded Mister Prokhorov compensate Miz Safra a whopping £1,300,000–or, at today's rates, $1,862,320 for all us Americanos–for the cost of "moving furniture." We'd bet our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly that request didn't sit well with Mister Prokhorov or his legal team.

Miz Safra's legal representative, an homme by the name of Jean-Michel Darrios, claims to have an ace in their legal hole regarding this whole brouhaha and is quoted in the Telegraph, "We have written proof that Mr. Prokhorov, via his lawyers, continued to confirm his intention to by the property well after the sale agreement."

A verdict is due in March of 2010.


StPaulSnowman said...

Perhaps the Widow Safra could offer Mr. Prokhorov two weekends a year at Leopolda as a time share consolation prize for his generous contribution to the charities of her choice. I am hoping this scenario will play out like an action flick staring Bruce Willis.

chris said...

My French friends tell me that forfeiting the deposit if you don't go through with the sale is absolute in France. There are no afterthought "ifs" "ands" and "buts". I predict he loses. The Widder might need more personal security afterward, however.

Madam Pince said...

I want to try the fresh orange. I also like the fact that this family lives in rural Virginia -- I do too!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Ditto, re forfeiting deposits in France (to which I can attest, OUCH!). But the house isn't Belle Epoque—it was completed in 1931 by an American, Ogden Codman.

:} avg joe said...

she is tricky, they say she killed her husband and is in denial to danger and this guy is dangerous, have you seen Taken ? Rock n rolla ? I rest my case

Anonymous said...

He is not getting his deposit back period.

Unfortunately for her Russians, especially Russian billionaires are not that nice so she might want to reconsider.

CockSearch2009 said...

Is the Currency Converting Contraption bejeweled?

Anonymous said...

"But the house isn't Belle Epoque—it was completed in 1931 by an American, Ogden Codman."

It was built by King Leopold of Belgium, hence, the name 'Villa Leopolda'.

Administrator said...

Mikhail Prokhorov is the owner of the 61 metre superyacht Solemar, built by Amels of the Netherlands.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunatelly for him, Mr Prokhorov is not very well seen in France since a problem about prostitutes while staying in Courchevel... He was furious about it! And I am afraid to say that the French law about promesse de vente is very tight here and France look badly at Russian oligarch new wealth, so if Mrs Safra has problems, she is so well connected and appreciate by the "clean rich" and "old money" that this man could be in trouble with our autorities like the Fisc who love to go into your french assets to see what can be taken with tax...
The judges will decide!
Pierre (France)

Anonymous said...

Originally, the first Leopolda was named after King Leopold of Belgium who bought 8 ha of land in 1895 and built a kind of mountain manor (like the ones you can find in France spa villages) who doesn't suit well Riviera lifestyle, in my opinion... But he hardly lived there, prefering his yacht! Anyway, after his death, his son used it as a WW1 military hospital before selling it to the Comtesse de Beauchamp in 1919.
At that time, she was living in the famous Cap Ferrat "villa Fiorentina" but was bored of it, so she asked her architect Aaron Messiah and his son to remodeled Leopolda into something more Mediterranean, with moorish, greek and roman inspiration: gallery with colonnades, serliennes bays etc. Very elegant and chic! The garden was marvellous with themed colored vegetals terraces, tennis court and natural pools!
She sold it in 1929 to Ogden Codman (who wrote a deco book with Edith Wharton: for numerous months, he studied Italian and French architecture to picked what he liked to create his dream...
The palladian style palace that we can see today! He add two lateral wings with towers, the south triangular front pediment with roman high relief, the entrance hall stone stairs inspired by Marseille Borelli castle, mosaics floors and painted roofs, the 90m x 15m pool, the large terraces, the famous stairs with cypresses etc. He sold it after WW2.
Before Mrs Safra, various owners bought it like Mr Agnelli with his mistress Pamela Harriman, an "aventurière" as we say in France, before he married the more suitable fabulously chic Princess Marella di Castagneto.
With the taste of Mrs Safra for amazing furnitures and work of arts, we can guess the inside must be amazingly decorated and chic!
Sorry, this was a bit long!
Pierre (France)

Stewie said...

No it was great, thanks Pierre. Your posts are always very informative and well written and I (and I'm sure many others) always enjoy them immenseley

StPaulSnowman said...

Pierre.......I second that emotion!

Anonymous said...

whats with them phalic shrubs and bushes.lol,keepin it classy people.

Unknown said...

Mr Prokhorov should hire a new real estate lawyer.

(1) He was indeed entitled to get out of the "compromis" within 7 days. There was no need to specify this anywhere. If he didn't use that right, tough. But he can't (later) try and get out of the deal arguing he was not given said right.

(2) Specifying "house value" vs. "house content value" is very important - for tax reasons. The sales tax (c. 7%) is applied only on the house value. So obviously, the "fisc" (tax people) look closely at any house content values specified in a "compromis". In this case, probably a bit tricky (they would have had to prove the value of the furnishing). But, at any rate, not until the sale is almost complete, and the money is about to change hands. Or rather the buyer's funds are held by the notaire, whose duty is pays tax and releases the proceeds to the seller. So Mr Prokhorov's claim is unsubstantiated.

Really, somebody should tell him to get a new lawyer - try a notaire who speaks good English. (Yes, there are a few). But, in all likelihood, he will loose his deposit. Tough. So may be it's not worth it... :)

Pierre Guillery

Anonymous said...

I bought one house in France and backed out of buying a second one - SEVEN MONTHS after signing the acte. I had to fight to get my deposit back, but, because I'd added a couple of things to the contract, and because the seller had misrepresented the property and I yelled FRAUD loudly and in two languages, I got my deposit back. It took about six months, a notaire and an attorney. I'll be interested to hear the outcome of this - that's a lot of €€€ to lose.

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