Steel magnate’s birthday bash in French Alps draws frowns

Saturday, December 18, 2010

LONDON - A mega-party by steel magnate Viktor Pinchuk in Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps, has led some locals to brand the extravagant spending obscene, a media report said Saturday.

The Ukranian businessman, also an art collector, whose fortune Forbes estimates stands at $3.1 billion, is sparing no expense for the 300 lucky guests invited to Saturday night’s event, the Daily Telegraph reported on its website.

He has hired out a huge 3,000-square metre marquee from the town hall in Courchevel 1650, the second-highest part of the resort in the French Alps’ Trois Valles.

It has taken 50 workmen two weeks “under difficult climactic conditions” to set up the venue, which will house the Cirque du Soleil, the world-renowned Canada-based circus troupe.

Local schoolchildren were invited to come and watch the acrobats rehearse.

The gastronomic buffet has been concocted by Alain Ducasse, whose restaurants around the world have a total of 19 Michelin stars, including three at London’s The Dorchester.

His haute gastronomy will be washed down with the finest champagne, vodka and top grands crus.

The soire will end with a spectacular firework display before guests retire to the resort’s 11 five-star hotels - a record in France - all booked out for the occasion.

Pinchuk, whose wife Elena is the daughter of Leonid Kutchma, the former Ukrainian president, is the world’s 307th wealthiest person, according to Forbes and was on this year’s Time 100, the magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people.

A former Soviet engineer, he made his money in steel pipes after the collapse of the USSR, now owns five television stations and three newspapers, including the country’s most popular title.

He and his wife bought what was the world’s most expensive home in London for 80 million pounds in 2008 - a five-storey Victorian house in Kensington complete with huge underground swimming pool, gym, sauna and cinema.

Pinchuk’s lavish bash will be a welcome boost for “Courchevelski”, as the resort is known. In 2007, its wealthy Russian clientele shunned the four-village resort after French police hauled in Michael Prokhorov, Russia’s second richest man, for questioning on suspicion of hiring prostitutes.

Prokhorov said his companions were merely “beautiful, educated young women”.

Booking at the resort, which normally welcomes 20,000 holidaymakers from the ex-Soviet Union for New Year, took a tumble last year due to the knock-on effects of the financial crisis, which hit oligarchs’ cash flow.

Filed under: Economy

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