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One day in May 2006, Evgeny Lebedev’s public relations agent took him to see Tatler editor-in-chief Geordie Greig. She told him that Evgeny wanted to launch a charity with a Russian called Michael “Goo-ba-cheff” at Althorp House, Princess Diana’s childhood home, and would he like to cover it in the magazine. Do you mean, Greig asked her, “Gorbachev, the Man Who Changed The World”?
She looked blank, but Evgeny appears pleased that Greig got the significance of the event. Tatler wouldn’t only cover it, Greig said, but would co-host the party. And what a party it would be: “A Russian Midsummer Fantasy.”
Evgeny, then 27 years old, and his former KGB officer father Alexander spent £2m in today’s money on oysters and golden Oscietra caviar; on people in 18th-century dress sitting in trees like a “Watteau painting” and a troop of Cossacks who charged from the woods and then did an equestrian ballet in front of guests including Salman Rushdie and Orlando Bloom, Tracey Emin and Claire Danes. In the end, the “Lebs” raised £500,000 less for the charity than they spent on the party. But its returns, in the long term, were astronomical.
The Althorp party marked Evgeny’s entry into London society and, ultimately, the heart of Britain’s establishment. Within 15 fast years, which covered waves of Russian money crashing on the UK, changing relations between the two countries, the decline of public service and rise of private interests in politics, Evgeny secured a seat in the House of Lords as “Baron Lebedev, of Hampton in the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames and Siberia in the Russian Federation”. Along the way, he acquired national newspapers, countless celebrities from Katie Price to Elton John and Judi Dench, aristocrats, and powerful politicians, not least Boris Johnson.
It’s an extraordinary ascent, in many ways opaque – yet very well photographed.
Above left: David Furnish and Evgeny attend a fundraiser party. Above right: Evgeny attends Andy and Patti Wong’s Chinese New Year Party at Madame Tussauds in 2007 in fancy dress.
Above left: Yefgeni at Andy and Patti Wong’s Chinese New Year Party at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London, 2006 Above right: Evgeny with Claire Danes at the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Launch Party at Althorp House, June 2006
Above left: Ana Matronic, Gorbachev and Evgeny attend the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Party at Hampton Court Palace, June 2007 Above right: Evgeny with Geri Halliwell at the Serpentine Summer Party at The Serpentine Gallery, London, July 2007
Evgeny at the launch of his restaurant Sake No Hana with (above left) Lady Gabriella Windsor and (above right) Charles Spencer, London, November 2007
Above left: Evgeny with Margo Stilley at Andy & Patti Wong’s Chinese New Year party, London, 2007
Above right: Evgeny with Anna Friel at the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation afterparty, Hampton Court Palace, June 2007
Above left: Evgeny and HRH Prince Michael of Kent at Nicky Haslam’s party for Janet de Botton to beat the Credit-Crunch, Parkstead House, 2008
Above right: Evgeny with Christian Louboutin at the Fourth Annual Fundraising Gala Dinner for the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, House Hampton Court Palace, June 2009
Above left: Evgeny with Lord Peter Mandelson at the reception for the opening of an exhibition on Azerbaijani carpets, London, November 2010
Above right: Evgeny with Stephen Fry at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards, London, November 2010
Evgeny at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards with (above left) Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere and (above right) then London mayor Boris Johnson
Above left: Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch leaving Evgeny’s 2017 Christmas party, London The 2018 Christmas party was attended by Rod Stewart (above right), Jeremy and Lucia Hunt (below left) and Peter Mandelson (below right)
Evgeny’s 2019 Christmas party was attended by former prime minister David Cameron and his wife and Samantha (top left) and the current occupants of Number 10 Boris and Carrie Johnson (above right)
Photographs by David M. Benett/Getty Images, GORC/GC Images, Stuart C. Wilson – WPA Pool / Getty Images, Jeremy Selwyn , Nick Harvey/WireImage, Jon Furniss/WireImage
Next in this file
Lebedev: Lord of Siberia
Monday 28 February 2022
Lebedev: Lord of Siberia
Door after door in Britain has been opened for Evgeny Lebedev, all the way to the House of Lords. Who has opened them, and why?