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See the $68M Time Warner PH of a Shady Russian Billionaire

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The New York Times is on a mission to expose foreign buyers in some of the city's most exclusive buildings whose identities are shielded by limited-liability corporations, trusts, or other shell companies. In the last installment of the five-part series "Towers of Secrecy," the Times takes on Russian buyers who are cradling their wealth of dubious origin in multi-million dollar apartments in the Time Warner Center. Of particular prominence is Andrey Vavilov, a former Russian senator and finance wiz who rose to preeminence in the largely unregulated post-Soviet era. Vavilov's position in the Russian economy ties him indirectly to Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin and incumbent president Vladmir Putin. The picture the Times paints of Vavilov is, in short, of a powerful and protected man with lined pockets.
In his position, Vavilov appointed economy-defining deals and skirted scandal as gracefully as his dancer wife. Amidst a volatile Russian economy, he has, as so many before him, parked a sizable chunk of his wealth in New York City real estate. In 2007, Vavilov was poised to purchase two penthouses at the esteemed Plaza, for which he would pay a total of $53.5 million. "In no uncertain terms," the Times quotes Vavilov, "he wished to own the largest and most expensive apartment at the Plaza." But after a period during which the penthouses were combined, Vavilov found the home unsatisfactory, comparing it in a subsequent lawsuit to an attic "with low ceilings, unsightly air conditioning units and inferior bathroom tile."

Vavilov ended up buying in the tower he and his wife were living in as the Plaza penthouses were combined, the Time Warner Center. Vavilov purchased Penthouse 78, an 8,000-square-foot floor-through apartment from investor Gerhard Andlinger for $37.5 million in 2009. "At the Time Warner Center, Mr. Vavilov and [his wife] Ms. Tsaregradskaya needed little introduction," the Times writes, "particularly in the ultraexpensive top floors, where a number of the Russian owners were linked through a tangled—one might even say Dostoevskian—web of relationships and business deals." Vavilov's fellow Russian neighbors included mining company executives Oleg Baybakov and Maxim Finskiy, relations of big time banker Vitaly Malkin, and economist Konstantin Kagalovsky, all of whom Vavilov had done business with at one time, either directly or indirectly.

Vavilov put his Time Warner penthouse on the market in 2013 for $75 million, and dropped its ask to $68 million in May of 2014. Vavilov took the apartment off of the market in November. Meanwhile, sources close to Vavilov says he now lives as a private citizen of Russia, a "status that makes him less susceptible to government interference." The Times also speculates that Vavilov is distancing himself from America for political reasons. Professor economist Barry Ickes told the Times, "I think important Russians, just in general, it's the case that people whose business interests are in Russia now, they feel very uncomfortable being seen as close to America."
· At the Time Warner Center, an Enclave of Powerful Russians [NYT]
· Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York City Real Estate [NYT]
· Scandal-Plagued Foreigners Park Millions in Midtown Condos [Curbed]
· All Time Warner Center coverage [Curbed]

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