Record fee showed 'love affair' with British pop

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The Independent Culture

The fee paid by a Russian billionaire to George Michael for a private recital of some of his 1980s hits is reported to be the highest in the history of Russian show-business.

Vladimir Potanin, estimated to be worth nearly £4bn, agreed to pay the former Wham! star an eye-watering £1.78m - a reminder, if one was needed, of Russia's long-running love affair with British rock and pop.

Thought to be Russia's ninth richest individual, Mr Potanin manages industrial giant Norilsk Nickel. He made his fortune in the 1990s, dreaming up the scheme that saw a cash-strapped Kremlin sell off its industrial jewels in return for loans.

He inhabits a world where paying Western stars huge fees to has become the norm. One oligarch, Telman Ismailov, paid Jennifer Lopez a rumoured $3m (£1.6m) for a 15-minute private performance, and is reported to have paid Robbie Williams and Mariah Carey $1m each to sing at a New Year's Eve party.

Russians' fascination with British pop goes back to the 1960s, when the Kremlin tried and failed to stop Beatlemania taking the Soviet Union by storm.