Chelsea billionaire still keen on Italian vineyard

  • Monday 9 January 2006

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is continuing his quest for an Italian vineyard despite an unsuccessful offer for Castello Banfi.

The owner of Chelsea football club and, according to Forbes, the 21st richest man in the world, is reportedly negotiating the purchase of the Argiano, Col d’Orcia and Il Poggione wineries. All three are based in Tuscany’s Montalcino region.

Abramovich visited Tuscany in September last year on a holiday incorporating a whistle stop tour of some of Italy’s top wineries. His visits to Ornellaia, Sassicaia and Lungarotti fanned speculation that he was looking to buy a vineyard property.

This was confirmed when a source at top Tuscan estate Castello Banfi told UK newspaper The Sun that representatives of Abramovich had visited the estate ‘several times’.

They are believed to have offered £300m ($530m) in cash for the property – an 11th Century castle surrounded by 850ha of vines. The owners, American-Italian brothers John and Harry Mariani, turned down the offer.

‘We are not selling it to Mr Roman Abramovich whatever the offer may be,’ said a spokesman for Banfi.

Abramovich is worth an estimated £7.5b ($13.3b). He owns a Russian petroleum company, a TV station, a hockey team as well as several houses in the UK and abroad.

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