Secrets of the Moscow millionaires' club

A Russian society hostess has lifted the lid on the free-spending excesses of her country's richest oligarchs
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The Independent Online

Male, Russian, 40 years old, self-made, on his second marriage, has two children, maintains at least one mistress and spends £4.3m every year on everyday "running costs", including a "modest" £16,000 on food and wine.

That, according to Multimillionaires, a new book by a Russian society hostess who knows many of them personally, is the profile of your average Russian oligarch.

The author, Lena Lenina, says that any oligarch worth his caviar owns a minimum of seven cars, employs a staff of 16, owns a yacht at least 170ft in length, a private jet that costs a minimum of £19m, and maintains a deep slush fund for bribing government officials. One apparently confided to her that he had to bribe a circle of corrupt politicians with "more than 1,000 cars and several hundred flats".

Ms Lenina, a former model and TV presenter based in France, says she is not talking about men such as Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, who is worth an estimated £10bn and apparently has a personal staff of some 700 people, but about the hundreds of oligarchs who are not household names in the UK. She illuminates a corner of Russian society whose extravagance often raises eyebrows among those who get by on the average Russian salary of £160 a month.

An oligarch spends about £535 every day merely on keeping his favourite mistress in the style to which she is accustomed, according to Ms Lenina. She will be given a sports car (the Audi TT is apparently a favourite) and a £200,000 pied-à-terre in central Moscow. Second-string lovers do less well, having only £2,700 a month spent on them.

The writer argues that many of Russia's wealthy businessmen have lost their nouveau-riche tastes and become far more sophisticated. While what she calls "provincials" may still plump for a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati, Russia's urban rich prefer the anonymity of chauffeur-driven Mercedes, BMWs and Audis and spend an average of £425,000 a year on buying such vehicles. An oligarch's home, she says, is a display of raw wealth: his primary residence is a Moscow penthouse complete with a pool and winter garden and a price tag of up to £5m.

Many Russian entrepreneurs also own "suburban" homes on Moscow's elite "Rublevka" golden mile, as well as a clutch of ski chalets, apartments and villas overseas, with London a favoured destination.