March 2, 2010 / 12:16 PM / 10 years ago

Russian tycoon loses $53 mln deposit on French villa

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov attends the opening ceremony of the 3rd Krasnoyarsk Book Fair in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/Files

NICE, France (Reuters) - A Russian billionaire who failed to complete a deal to buy one of France’s most beautiful houses also lost his deposit on Monday, to the tune of 39 million euros ($53 million).

Mikhail Prokhorov had made several bids to buy the sprawling villa Leopolda de Villefranche-sur-Mer before owner Lily Safra accepted a price of 390 million euros in 2008.

But Prokhorov, a nickel magnate who topped Russia’s rich list last year according to business magazine Finans, pulled out of the sale as the financial crisis broke in late 2008.

Since then, he has been trying to recover the 10 percent deposit he paid for the villa, which is perched between Nice and Monaco and was built for Leopold II of Belgium.

The court in the southern city of Nice said on Monday that Safra did not need to pay Prokhorov back the deposit of 39 million euros.

“We have lost,” said Prokhorov’s lawyer Jean-Pierre Gastaud. “The court decided that the notarised document was perfectly legitimate.” He said he would advise Prokhorov to appeal.

Safra, widow of banker Edmond Safra, said the deposit would be donated to medical research institutions.

“The law has been applied, and justice has prevailed,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Reporting by Pierre Thebault; Writing by Sophie Taylor; Editing by Andrew Roche

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