Capital Group co-founder Vladislav Doronin, whose company OKO Group purchased a plot of land in the Aspen resort in Colorado, has sued local publication The Aspen Times. The businessman's lawsuit was published in the court database CourtListener. The developer was dissatisfied with the publications of the newspaper, in which he was called an “oligarch” with close ties to Russia, and it was alleged that he had bribed “officials of the Vladimir Putin regime”, his fortune was “corrupt”, and he allegedly uses investments in Aspen for money laundering. Doronin intends to get the truth in court.
Who is Doronin
Vladislav Doronin was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from Moscow State University. In 1985, thanks to his marriage to a foreigner, he left for Switzerland. Since then, Doronin has been living abroad. The lawsuit states that in 1986 Doronin renounced Soviet citizenship, becoming stateless as a result, after which the UN provided him with travel documents confirming that he was a political refugee from the Soviet Union. “In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia became an independent sovereign state, Doronin was in British Hong Kong. Mr. Doronin has never lived in Russia, has never applied for Russian citizenship, has never received Russian citizenship, and has never been issued a Russian passport by the Russian government. In 1992, he became a Swedish citizen, today he only has a Swedish passport, and is a resident of Switzerland, the lawsuit says.
In Switzerland, Doronin received an MBA and began his career at the company of Mark Rich, the founder of the Glencore trader. In 1991, he founded the development company Capital Group in Russia, and in 1992 he met Eduard Berman and Pavel Te. Subsequently, they became Doronin's equal partners in Capital Group. At first, Rich financed the company's development projects, but by 2004, cooperation ceased - the partners learned to raise money from Russian and Western banks and funds. By the end of the 2000s, the company became one of the largest developers in the capital. The largest projects are City of Capitals and Oko in Moscow City, Legend of Tsvetnoy and a redevelopment project on the territory of the Badaevsky brewery. The lawsuit states that “between 2013 and 2014, Doronin negotiated the sale of his entire stake in Capital Group, since then Doronin has not conducted any activities in Russia and is no longer associated with Capital Group.” Capital Group Forbes confirmed that at the moment Vladislav Doronin is in no way connected with the activities of the holding and has not participated in new investment projects and operations of the Capital Group since 2014.
In 2014, Doronin, together with the developer Omar Amanat, bought the Aman Resort’s luxury hotel chain for $348 million, and in 2016 became its sole owner. Aman Group owns 34 hotels in 22 countries, according to its own data, the group has no property in Russia, the company employs more than 6,500 people worldwide.
In 2015, Doronin founded OKO Group in Miami. The most famous project is the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. According to its own data, OKO employs 100 people at its headquarters, and over 25,000 people work at the company's construction sites. The lawsuit states that Doronin and OKO invested more than $1 billion in real estate projects in Miami.
What is Aspen
Once a mining town, Aspen is now America's most expensive ski resort. Over the years, Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, oil magnate Sid Bass, candy magnate William Wrigley Jr., casino owner Neil Bloom, and Jeff Bezos' parents Jacqueline and Miguel Bezos have owned houses there.
Among the owners of real estate in this area there are also heroes better known to the reader of the Russian Forbes. In February 2008, Roman Abramovich purchased a house in Snowmass (a ski resort located in the town of Snowmass Village near Aspen) on Aspen Way for $11.8 million, and in April 2021, a mansion for $36.4 million in Snowmass on Wildcat Drive . In the same place, until recently, there was a house of a long-time colleague of Abramovich, Yevgeny Tetenbaum. He purchased the Snowmass home in June 2008 for $7.7 million and sold it in March 2022 for $10 million.
Abramovich's houses in Aspen also raise questions among local residents, in particular, a critical letter in the same The Aspen Times was published by local rabbi Daniel Teitelbaum.
Aspen City Holdings, created by OKO Group, has acquired a 3,834 sq.m. in Aspen on March 5, 2022. The seller was Norway Island LLC, owned by local developers Jim DeFrancia, Jeff Gorsuch and Brian Peterson. The deal amounted to $76.25 million, while Norway Island itself acquired this site in June 2021 for $10 million. Also, OKO Group received the right to build a hotel with an area of 5946 sq.m as part of the deal. for 81 numbers.
The essence of the claims
Doronin's claims were caused by two articles in the local newspaper The Aspen Times (dated March 5 and March 12), as well as letters from a local resident of Basalt (a city in Colorado, located near Aspen) Bernard Grauer (published March 22). In this letter, Grauer, a pensioner and former municipal deputy, accuses Doronin of having bribed "officials of the Vladimir Putin regime", his fortune is "corrupt", he uses his investments in Aspen real estate to launder money. Grauer also points out that Jeff Gorsuch, Jim DeFrancia and Brian Peterson received the approval of Aspen local residents to build the hotel (the corresponding vote took place on March 5, 2019), but instead of building it, they sold it to Doronin's company with a 700% profit. A recent online poll in The Aspen Times showed that 74% of those who participated in it believe that Gorsuch, DeFrancia and Peterson betrayed their trust, the letter says. According to Grauer, this means that the Aspen City Council should withdraw the approval of the project.
The editorials say that Doronin's ties to Russia are undeniable. Also, one of the publications indicates that during the period when the businessman was in a relationship with supermodel Naomi Campbell, she interviewed Vladimir Putin. Naomi asked the president how to stay in shape, about his liking for women and his love for tigers. British GQ published an interview in March 2011.
At the same time, the position of Doronin's representatives was added to one of the materials later. “To call him an oligarch would mean that any businessman in the world who was born in Russia would be one, and this is obviously not the case,” his representative is quoted as saying.
The lawsuit alleges that Doronin, both through Capital Group and through his other ventures, made his fortune legally by developing and converting Soviet-era industrial real estate into modern office, retail and residential properties for Western companies. At the same time, it is emphasized that his activities were categorically different from the types of "exploitative crafts of the so-called oligarchs in Russia", who "profited from their close connection with Mr. Putin, Russia's natural resources and the public sector." As examples of real oligarchs, the lawsuit cites several top managers of Russian state corporations.
“The letter uses misplaced Russophobia based on offensive cultural stereotypes and slanderous fabrications used to attack a development project in Aspen bought by Doronin,” the lawsuit says. The document also argues that, given the sensitivity of the current situation regarding the political situation between Russia and Ukraine, the false claim that Doronin is corrupt and associated with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government casts a shadow not only on his reputation, but also on his business.
Doronin also points out in the lawsuit that Bernard Grauer's letter was published in the printed version of the newspaper and on the website after the businessman's representatives explained to the editors the falsity of the accusations. This indicates that the newspaper, according to Doronin, deliberately slandered him. The reason for these statements against Doronin is the bias and hostility of Bernard Grauer, he is convinced.
In this regard, Doronin asks to compensate him for the damage, impose a fine on the publisher of the newspaper and order him to withdraw the letter. The businessman also asks that the case be considered by a jury.
Forbes sent a request to lawyers representing Doronin in court and representatives of Aman, but they declined to comment on the lawsuit. Representatives of The Aspen Times and Bernard Grauer did not respond to a request from Forbes.