Unreal Estate

On Billionaire’s Row: Russian Into Real Estate

by AVENUE insider Photographed by Compass
Friday, June 9, 2017
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Earlier this week, Compass listed a $33 million four bedroom apartment at 15 Central Park West, the building that started the strapping-on of midtown’s Billionaire’s Belt. Unit 8B in the lower, Central Park-facing “house” wing of the block-square limestone building, is billed by its brokers as a “stunning 8-room spread boast[ing] 3,478 square feet of living space and almost 50 linear feet of unobstructed Eastern frontage overlooking Central Park.”

Left out of the breathless reports on this latest listing at the building dubbed the Limestone Jesus is the apartment’s odd history–and its Russian connection.

But AVENUE Editor-in-Chief Michael Gross told all in his New York Times best-selling book on the building, House of Outrageous Fortune. The apartment is one of two there bought from the developers by Gerald Ross, “a litigator who specializes in suing law firms on behalf of other lawyers,” Gross reported. In 2102, Ross rented 8B to Nikita Shashkin, whose father-in-law, Aleksandr Khloponin, caused jaws to drop among the building’s seen-it-all residents when he visited with a huge security detail.

That’s because Khloponin was a deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation. More interesting in the context of 2017, is his son-in-law’s then-employer, where Khloponin had also worked, a Russian bank named VTB or Vneshtorgbank, established in 1990 with the backing of the Kremlin.

Russians figured large in the history of New York luxury condominiums long before they became one of the larger ethnic cohorts at 15 Central Park West–and agents of disturbance in American politics. In an interview for the 2014 book on 15 CPW, Donald J. Trump, not yet running for president, told Gross that many high-net-worth Russians had bought condos in Trump Tower. According to recent news reports, Trump World Plaza on United Nations Plaza is another favorite of the Kremlin-connected. Earlier this spring, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on the “large number of condominium sales [Trump] made to people with ties to former Soviet republics”

“We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” a broker told the magazine. Among them were the purchasers of “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83,” the magazine said, adding that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway And her husband and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen also bought units in the building.

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” President Trump recently told NBC anchor Lester Holt. But nine years earlier, Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate conference in Manhattan that, “[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
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