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Russian Billionaire Rybolovlev Sued Over Penthouse Purchase

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev’s wife sued him over the $88 million purchase of a Central Park West penthouse in Manhattan from former Citigroup Inc. (C) Chairman Sanford Weill.

Elena Rybolovleva, 45, of Geneva, who is seeking a divorce, yesterday sued her 45-year-old husband in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She accused him of fraudulently transferring property acquired during his marriage in violation of a Swiss court order to buy the New York penthouse “with the specific intent of hiding and diverting his personal interest in the property.”

A company associated with the billionaire’s daughter, Ekaterina Rybolovleva, signed a contract to purchase the 6,744- square-foot (627-square-meter), full-floor condominium at 15 Central Park West, Alan Basiev, a spokesman for Rybolovlev, said in December. The purchase closed Feb. 15, according to the complaint.

Ekaterina Rybolovleva, who is studying at a U.S. university, plans to stay at the apartment when visiting New York, Basiev said. Her father, ranked number 100 on Forbes Magazine’s 2012 list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $9 billion, is the former owner of fertilizer maker OAO Uralkali.

Divorce Filing Elena Rybolovleva filed for divorce in Geneva in December 2008, and the court later imposed a provisional freeze on shares and assets of Rybolovlev, including stakes in Russian potash producers OAO Uralkali and OAO Silvinit, according to the complaint. The pair married in July 1987 and lived in Geneva starting in 1995.

His wife is asking the court to establish a trust over the property so that it “cannot be alienated, conveyed, encumbered, transferred or wasted” pending the final determination of the Swiss court.

Basiev and Rybolovlev couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after regular business hours yesterday in Russia.

Marc I. Salis, a New York-based lawyer who represented the penthouse’s buyer, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The condo was listed for $88 million. The prior record for a Manhattan residence was the $53 million sale of a townhouse to private-equity investor J. Christopher Flowers in 2006, according to Jonathan Miller, president of New York appraiser Miller Samuel Inc.

Potash Producer The condominium was listed for sale by brokerage Brown Harris Stevens in November. Weill and his wife, Joan, paid $43.7 million for the property in 2007, according to city records. The apartment has a wraparound terrace, two wood-burning fireplaces and a library, according to a floor plan on Brown Harris’s website.

Rybolovlev sold 53 percent of OAO Uralkali (URKA) in June 2010 to billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and his partners, who also took control over rival OAO Silvinit as part of a plan to create the world’s largest potash producer.

Rybolovlev, who lives in Monaco, liquidated his interests in Uralkali and Silvinit and used part of the proceeds to acquire the penthouse, according to the suit.

“During the marriage, and during the pendency of the divorce proceedings and this time in violation of the Swiss court order, defendant Dmitri Rybolovlev used property acquired during the marriage to purchase a multitude of new assets, using for this purpose vehicles such as trusts and limited liability companies to place them beyond the reach of plaintiff Elena Rybolovleva,” according to the lawsuit.

Student Housing Rybolovlev and his daughter planned the purchase of the penthouse since 2008 despite his assertion that it is student housing for her, and she doesn’t attend school in New York, according to the lawsuit.

Rybolovleva has also sued her husband in Florida over a house he purchased from Donald Trump in Palm Beach for $95 million, which at the time was the most expensive house in the U.S., according to that lawsuit.

The case is Rybolovleva v. Rybolovlev, 102168/2012, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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