The Russians won’t skip the country just yet
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 24 July 2014
Outlook: A few words on this talk of the exodus of rich Russians, and their money, from London.
First: rich Russians don’t hold much of their assets in London. They may own homes in Belgravia and Knightsbridge worth millions, but their empires are owned offshore, and always have been. They do not hold billions of dollars in their UK Coutts accounts. Freezing orders, if there were any, won’t ice much here.
Second: the idea that they will be stampeding to sell those homes and skip the country are wide of the mark. Flogging a £40m townhouse in Chester Square takes time. A £100m flat in One Hyde Park even longer. Even if they wanted to sell up in a hurry, they couldn’t.
Third: as a Russian mother of two living in London tells me, most of these people have been here for years. Their children are in the best English public schools or universities. They can live without their every move watched by armed bodyguards. They won’t dump their English lives unless they have absolutely no other option.
Fourth: if tougher sanctions on high-profile oligarchs do come in – and that is an extremely big “if” – they only make up a tiny fraction of the thousands of extremely wealthy Russians living here. As for whether it will happen, I am extremely sceptical. Would a British government really send Chelsea FC into potential financial crisis by driving Roman Abramovich out of the country?
However, that is not to say that the next generation of wealthy Russians will not seek other parts of the world in which to live. Britain certainly seems a less friendly place to Muscovites and Saint Petersburgers now than it did when the first wave of settlers came over in the Nineties and Noughties. Russian banks these days are offering high interest rates on big deposits in the hope of encouraging people to stay, while playgrounds such as Sochi are offering havens for the superyacht crowd.
Young, rich Russians could well decide to stay at home.
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