Dmitry Rybolovlev Trashes Yves Bouvier in ‘Town and Country’ Interview

Rybolovlev says Bouvier underestimated him.

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, whose claim of fraud was the basis for the arrest of Yves Bouvier, nicknamed the “freeport king,” in Monaco in February, has finally shared his side of the story in a profile in Town and Country.

Rybolovlev alleges that he was introduced to Bouvier by his friend Tania Rappo (who, according to Bloomberg, is Rybolovlev’s translator and the godmother of one of his children), and that the pair overcharged him millions of dollars in his acquisition of 38 paintings. Reportedly, Rybolovlev’s collection is worth $1 billion.

This past New Year’s Eve, Rybolovlev made a disquieting discovery about his new Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion. Bouvier had bought the painting for Rybolovlev from billionaire art collector Steve Cohen for for $93.5 million, which is much lower than the $118 million price that Rybolovlev paid for the work.

Amedeo Modigliani, <em>Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion</em>, 1917. <br>Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.

Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion, 1917.
Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s.

The heart of the dispute is whether Bouvier was serving as an agent, and earning two percent on the transactions with Rybolovlev, or as a dealer, in which case he’d be entitled to an amount that he deemed appropriate.

Rybolovlev claims that the difference between the two prices was far more than the two-percent commission he claims he had agreed upon with Bouvier while Bouvier claims he was operating as an independent art dealer not as a broker, so the two-percent commission would not apply.

The exact details of Rybolovlev’s arrangement with Bouvier, which were never written down, remain unclear. Bouvier isn’t known as an art dealer or broker (a potential conflict of interest with his art storage business).

The other people at the dinner “thought I was having a stroke” when he learned the news, Rybolovlev told T&C.

“I did not act as intermediary but as the owner,” said Bouvier in defense of the price hikes to Vanity Fair, as translated by T&C. “I had a right to a profit; it’s the law of business.” Rappo says she never concealed the commission fees she was collecting on the deal, but that Rybolovlev never asked.

Yves Bouvier. Photo: Daniel Stier/Bloomberg Markets.

Yves Bouvier.
Photo: Daniel Stier/Bloomberg Markets.

Rybolovlev claims that Bouvier and Rappo were hoping to take advantage of his high-profile divorce (thought to be the most expensive in history) and subsequent desire to keep his ex-wife from learning the true value of his collection. “They assumed wrongly that because of my divorce my interests would be in line with theirs. They assumed I wouldn’t want to be open about my collection—ever,” he explained.

“It’s easy for [Bouvier and Rappo] to paint me as the stereotypical Russian oligarch,” Rybolovlev added. “They underestimated me.”

Meanwhile, Bouvier has fired back with claims that Rybolovlev owes him large sums of money. Frank Michel, Rappo’s lawyer, has accused the Russian oligarch of tampering with police evidence and invasion of privacy. “Rybolovlev will be charged,” he told T&C, “and then there will be a trial involving one of the most powerful men here. Monaco has never seen the like.”

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