The Russians are Coming – “to Venice”

Dmitry Medvedev Russia's President Attends EU-Russia Summit

Rumors are swirling that Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko is ready to buy a block of oceanfront property in Venice, the Los Angeles suburb. Melnichenko’s distinctive 394-foot yacht was spotted off the coast, fueling speculation. Several web sites picked up on the report, which centers on a block of Ocean Front Walk, home to the city’s famed array of fortune tellers, jugglers and speed-crazed rollerbladers.


Of course, before anybody rushes to open a vodka bar, it should be noted that this story originated on a site called YoVenice, in a column headlined “rumormongering.” An anonymous source put together the presence of Melnichenko’s yacht and some title activity and, voila!, “the Russians are coming.”


Nevertheless, it’s certainly a fun and interesting rumor. Nothing can perk up a market like a little oligarchy action. From Thailand to London, whole markets flourished in the wake of can-you-top-this Russian buying frenzies–and many stalled when Russians grew relatively conservative. Many saw their fortunes cut in half, led by the valuations for their well-secured urban palaces.


Economic indicators suggest Russian’s elite continue to struggle. But developers around the world say Russians are venturing out again, fueled by a newfound desire to diversify their portfolios (read: get as much money out of Russia as possible).

Melnichenko, 38, is not your typical free-spending oligarch. He’s a gossip column favorite, aided by his Serbian supermodel wife, Aleksandra. Forbes ranks him at number 189 on its list of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $4.4 billion, primarily from banking, coal and fertilizer interests.


While it may turn out Mr. Melnichenko was simply visiting Los Angeles to go to Disneyland–and 4956124778_b9129cd3cdmaybe he’s not even on the yacht–the rumors at least provide an opportunity to talk about his jaw-dropping boat, called “A.” Beyond the usual necessities, the boat includes three swimming pools, a helipad and 23,600-square-feet of living space custom-designed by Philippe Starck. In honor of the boat’s presence, YoVenice is selling t-shirts with “I love Venice” spelled out in Russian.

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