Abramovich Says Extravagant Lifestyle Followed Chelsea Purchase

Roman Abramovich told a London court in a $6.8 billion-dollar fight with Boris Berezovsky that he didn’t seek an extravagant lifestyle with houses in France and the U.K. before he bought the Chelsea Football Club in 2003.

“When I bought Chelsea Football Club that did impact my way of life significantly,” Abramovich, 45, said on his second day of testimony today. “It was a turning point really.”

The 65-year-old Berezovsky, who built Russia’s largest car dealership LogoVaz in the 1990s, claims that he was intimidated by Abramovich into selling his stakes in oil company OAO Sibneft and another state-owned entity for less than they were worth a decade ago.

Abramovich has said in a witness statement that he wasn’t interested in having an extravagant lifestyle like Berezovsky and that he simply wanted to run a successful business. Under questioning today, he said he owned properties including a 420-acre estate in West Sussex, England, luxury flats in the Knightsbridge area of London, and a chateau in France which used to belong to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Russian businessman, who is 53rd on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, bought the West London football team for 59.3 million pounds ($69 million) in 2003.

Abramovich told the court yesterday that he rejected Berezovsky’s claims that he had a deal to carve up Russian Sibneft with his former business partner. While Berezovsky had been “very useful” in helping establish Sibneft through his political connections, Abramovich denied that Berezovsky had any actual stake in the company.

‘Krysha’ Role

In a witness statement filed at court yesterday, Abramovich said Berezovsky’s role had been to provide “krysha,” or protection, in the “dangerous and risky” environment in Russia after the fall of communism.

The two men have presented contrasting versions of the events which turned them from friends and allies into enemies. Berezovsky, who spent seven days being cross-examined at the trial, claims Abramovich told him the Russian state would seize his shares in Sibneft and another company unless he sold out.

So far, lawyers have presented little in the way of documentary evidence. Arguments have instead centered on what was said in a series of private meetings held on luxury yachts and in hotels between 1995 and 2000.

The case is Berezovsky v. Abramovich, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court Case No. 09-1080.

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