Meet the Russian billionaire behind new Skorpios island resort, da Vinci painting

Dmitry Rybolovlev sold a da Vinci painting for a record-breaking sum and now he's developing the infamous Skorpios island

New York Weekend Edition /
Dec.December 10, 2017 01:13 PM

(Credits from left to right: Wikimedia Commons; Francknataf/Wikimedia Commons; WORLD66/Wikimedia Commons; Abbie Rowe/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

UPDATED, Monday, Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m.: Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev has been busy.

On Nov. 22, he turned 51 and got the go-ahead from the Greek government to develop the private island Skorpios, named for its scorpion-like shape, into a luxury resort — a project that, according to Greek Reporter, he’s been gunning for since he bought the infamous property for $120 million in 2013 from shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis’ grand-daughter as a birthday gift to his daughter, Ekaterina.

It’s not the first time his daughter has played a role in Rybolovlev’s past real estate investments. In 2012, The Real Deal reported he bought what was then a record-breaking $88 million penthouse in 15 Central Park West for her — a move that his then-wife later alleged was an attempt to hide assets ahead of their divorce.

The green-light to develop Skorpios came exactly a week after Rybolovlev’s sold his Leonardo da Vinci painting “Salvator Mundi” to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for a record-breaking $450.3 million.

Rybolovlev claims his plans for Skorpios will preserve the unique history of the island: Onassis bought the island in 1962 and, six years later, he celebrated his wedding to Jackie Kennedy there — building her the famous Pink House villa — and he is also buried on the island along with several family members. Rybolovlev intends on maintaining a room in the Pink House dedicated to exhibiting the late tycoon’s personal items.

The new resort development will also have all the trappings one might expect: spas, swimming pools and luxury villas for guests among other amenities. Rybolovlev’s purchase of the island in 2013 beat out other potential buyers including Giorgio Armani, Bill Gates and Madonna who were reportedly interested at the time.[GreekReporter.com] — E.K. Hudson

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated the $88 million 15 Central Park West deal currently stands as a record.


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