Roman Abramovich’s yachts have historically been welcome sights at St. Barts.
The Russian tycoon’s years of island spending and giving endeared him to a number of locals. They’re not the only ones whose love Abramovich has apparently bought.
Sanctions continue to rain on Roman Abramovich’s parade.
This week, the island of Jersey froze at least $7 billion worth of assets suspected of being connected to the oligarch. Then, France revealed it had frozen nearly $1 billion worth of oligarch-owned properties, including Abramovich’s 70-acre estate on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy, commonly known as St. Barts.
Abramovich purchased that island mansion for $90 million in 2009. The secluded property, located on the pristine Gouverneur Beach, includes Balinese bungalows, tennis courts and swimming pools. The oligarch’s annual New Year’s Eve parties have become a local staple, featuring tier-one musical acts like Paul McCartney and extravagant fireworks displays.
Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the U.K. and EU, is a controversial figure who is unwelcome in most Western countries. But some of the roughly 10,000 people living in St. Barts are big fans and would embrace his return, according to several locals and full-time residents who spoke with Forbes.
“The island loves him. He’s been only good to the island,” says one real estate broker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash. “Many different service providers work for him. He uses the island economy when he comes.”
St. Barts’ Gustavia Harbor.
In an economy that runs on high-end tourism, Abramovich is the ultimate whale. He has paid for local contractors to upgrade his Gouverneur Beach home, and to renovate a second island property that also belongs to him, according to a person on St. Barts who asked to remain anonymous. (A second property on St. Barts was frozen by France, but its owner could not be confirmed). The oligarch’s yachts—including his 533-foot superyacht Eclipse, the 220-foot Garcon, and the 180-foot Halo—are familiar sights to islanders; two of them were there as recently as January 26, according to data from MarineTraffic.
Patrice Abderrahman, a local chef who runs a business catering to wealthy tourists, says he worked as Abramovich’s private chef a dozen or so times. “He is a beautiful person,” gushes Abderrahman, who’s lived on Saint Barthélemy since he was 14. “He always listens to everyone and [is] someone very, very simple. He loves nature. He is much loved on the …….