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When the US targeted Russia’s oligarchs after the invasion of Ukraine, the trail of assets kept leading to our own backyard. Not only had our nation become a haven for shady foreign money, but we were also incubating a familiar class of yacht-owning, industry-dominating, resource-extracting billionaires. In the January + February 2024 issue of our magazine, we investigate the rise of American Oligarchy—and what it means for the rest of us. You can read all the pieces here.
Even one of the original oligarchs of Russia, Boris Berezovsky—a fast-talking stereotype of a capitalist who made his fortune in the firesale of the old Soviet state—found there were unique costs to new wealth. Forbes called him a “gangland boss,” which meant he needed to sue for libel. Car-bombers wanted to kill him, so he needed security. As he fought his rivals in the emerging upper-crust, Berezovsky would end up paying for a myriad of lawsuits, homes, hostile takeovers, cars, boats, divorces, philanthropic endeavors, more homes (when he went into exile), financial assistance for a lesser royal, and payments to Chechen warlords to commit kidnappings. It costs a lot, it turns out, to be disgustingly rich.
Each oligarch is unique. But we wanted to outline the costs of the general “lifestyle creep” associated with unfathomable private power. Here is our attempt to document the uncommon common costs for the uber-wealthy: an oligarch consumer price index. See if you can guess any of the expenses.
—The price of a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport
like the one held by Harlan Crow.
price of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Cyprus passport
—The approximate amount spent
by Palantir founder Peter Thiel in New Zealand
when he submitted a citizenship application that was fast-tracked because of “exceptional circumstances
” despite the billionaire only spending 12 days in the country.
—Larry Ellison’s reported purchase price for 98 percent of Lana’i
—The price paid
in 2023, by a Connecticut hedge-fund billionaire, to acquire Jeffrey Epstein’s two Caribbean retreats.
—The nightly rate at the “plasma house
” owned by Thiel.
—The estimated daily cost of Justice Samuel Alito’s Alaska getaway
with hedge-funder Paul Singer.
—What hedge-funder Ken Griffin shelled out for one of 13 original copies
, after his son called him and said “Dad, you have to buy the Constitution.”
—The amount paid by Trump donor and real-estate magnate Stephen Ross
over a ten-period.
—The reported cost
of the “support yacht” Bezos bought to accompany Koru.
—The price of Aviva
, a yacht posted by British tax exile Joe Lewis as collateral after he was indicted
in New York on insider-trading charges.
—The estimated amount spent
by Michael Bloomberg on his 2020 presidential campaign.
—The approximate 2017 earnings for Florida mega-lobbyist Brian Ballard
, after he became the lobbyist du jour in Trump’s Washington.
—The amount paid
to the law firm of late Senate Majority Leader by Oleg Deripaska
for lobbying on behalf of the aluminum mogul to obtain a visa despite being officially banned from traveling to the United States.
—The rumored amount paid by Stephen Schwarzman for Stewart to perform at his 60th birthday party.
—the amount spent
by Facebook in 2020 to protect Zuckerberg and his family, according to SEC filings.
—the amount spent
by Howard Buffett—son of Warren—on a law-enforcement training center in Decatur, Illinois, shortly before he was named Macon County sheriff.
—The unpaid tab for Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX’s Margaritaville
, according to bankruptcy filings.
of Le Rêve
, when Steve Cohen attempted to buy it in 2006 from Steve Wynn.
of Alisher Usmanov’s bulletproof Mercedes-Maybach S650 Guard VR10, seized by Italian police in 2022.
—The amount that employees “whisper
,” according to Businessweek, that Sergey Brin has put into developing a company to build modern Zepplins to transport cargo and “darken” the sky.