Boris Berezovsky came to symbolise everything that the British media thought about when they pictured the traditional Russian oligarch. Of course, he was as well-known for his very posh life-style as he was for his notorious political statements. He was no friend to President Putin towards the end of their relationship, and, not surprisingly, he was a frequent visitor to the London High Court, most prominently for his divorce proceedings, and for his very acrimonious dispute with Roman Abramovich, which, unsurprisingly, Mr Berezovsky lost. The most-damaging incident during that lawsuit and case, which reputedly cost Mr Berezovsky over 120 million UK Pounds in legal costs, was that the judge branded him as a deliberately dishonest witness, a man whose statements in court were inherently unreliable.
I think as far as the Russian image in London was concerned, the media concentrated on his lavish lifestyle, as he owned a large flat in Mayfair, one of the most expensive districts in central London, but he also had a mansion on the very exclusive Wentworth Estate in Surrey, where his neighbours were drivers from the Formula One Racing Circuit, the Sultan of Brunei, and Ernie Els, the South African pro golfer. I think when Mr Berezovsky first bought the property on the Wentworth Estate, Elton John was still living there, as did pop singer Cliff Richard. Therefore, he certainly had the reputation of someone who was used to living a very extravagant lifestyle based on the fortune that he brought to the UK with him, following his business career in Russia.
However, will anyone in London cry for Berezovsky? I’m sure there are people who worked for him, who relied on his wealth for their own living, who’ll be sorry to be no longer in his service, but about his private life and his relationships, I think it’s very hard to make those judgements. Probably, like the majority of wealthy people in such circles, he kept a reasonably low profile in terms of his private life. What we learned about him came out when he appeared in court, and when he made statements that tried to show his side of what he felt had gone wrong in his own relationship with political circles inside Russia, and, obviously, with business associates inside Russia and outside Russia, so, I think it’d be very unfair of me to comment on what those around him would say now that he’s reportedly dead. However, he was certainly a most colourful character, somebody whose name was synonymous with Russian exiles in London, if you like.
24 March 2013 (MSK)
Voice of Russia World Service