MOSCOW: One’s a Russian reportedly looking to marry, the other a Russian who has just divorced, and they’re both among the richest, most fun-seeking men on the planet. No wonder hearts are a flutter and pulses are racing in Russia.
The news from London is that Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, 40, is divorcing his wife of 15 years and this news is enough to set the cocktail circuit back home in Russia ablaze.
Ranked 16th on the Forbes magazine rich list, Abramovich becomes Russia’s, even the world’s, most eligible bachelor. Overnight, with his new found single status he has turned into an idol for millions of women, a prouncement made in the mass market Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.
He knocks into second place fellow Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, a party lover nicknamed “Holiday Man” whom Forbes ranks at 38 and is reported in Russia’s tabloids to be about to marry just to win a bet.
The appeal that billionaire men have on women, is a much documented fact. The truth in today’s times is that they are also the role models for a generation of young men, who want to be like them.
Prokhorov who is 41 years old is also a legendary high-roller, whom Forbes estimates to be worth $13.5 billion (Rs1,350 crore). The lanky boss of Norilsk Nickel became Russia’s best-known playboy in January when he was arrested and released without charge by the police who were investigating an alleged call girl ring at a swish French ski resort.
The incident highlighted the extravagance of Russian tycoons, many of whom are in their early 40s and made dizzying fortunes almost overnight when they grabbed control of entire industries during the chaotic years around the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile there are intrinsic cultural differences in the way Western and Russian billionnaires are perceived. “Western billionaires are usually in their 50s or 60s and they have different values whereas Russian billionaires have usually been people from ordinary Soviet families who shot up like rockets and became among the richest people on the planet.
Tina Kandelaki, a TV journalist and lingerie pin-up, says that huge income differences in Russia are driving tabloidisation of the media. “It’s natural. The middle class that we all love so much still doesn’t really exist. There is a big, poor country that doesn’t believe in the existence of Moscow, just as there is a Moscow that doesn’t believe that there is the rest of the country,” she said.