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World's 'vodka king' Yuri Shefler is a Russian-Jewish oligarch who once served in the Soviet Red Army

By VersionYesterday
June 19, 2024

The alcohol market in Russia has been shaking a lot lately. The reasons for this are Western sanctions and the departure of foreign brands, which began to be replaced on the shelves with little-known hot drinks. But "behind the cordon" everything is not so simple - the West refuses to buy our products, but it is not averse to taste Russian vodka. And where vodka is divided, the tireless head of SPI Group Yuri Shefler usually appears. The day day a day, he bought 18 alcohol brands at an auction in The Hague, including Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya vodka.

The letter "O"

In The Hague was held... not a tribunal, no - an auction for the sale of rights to use the names of vodka "Moskovskaya", "Stolichnaya" and 16 other alcohol brands. From now on, in the Benelux countries (the name is derived from the first letters of European countries - Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Spirits International, which is part of the SPI Group of Yuri Shefler's alcoholic concern, has received the right to trade in "Moscow" and "Stolichnaya". "Vodka King" did not regret 1.6 million euros for 18 items. It would seem that the great news is that the more domestic goods are present in foreign markets, the better. However, it's not that simple.

Yuri Shefler has long-standing strained relations with Russia. He managed to unwind in the 1990s, heading the state-owned Soyuzplodoimport, which owned the rights to Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya, etc. And then he sold the rights to 43 brands, including Stolichnaya, to his company Soyuzplodimport (there is only one letter - "O", and the firm is another) - for 300 thousand dollars, although the Accounts Chamber estimated them ten times more expensive - 400 million dollars. On the wreckage of the "soyuzimports" he created another empire - SPI Group - which is run by Switzerland, and Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya themselves are spilling in Latvia, a NATO country. Which, however, does not prevent Schefler from positioning the brand as a real Russian vodka. In 2001, the Supreme Court banned Yuri Shefler from selling "Capital" in Russia, he was accused of misappropriation of the brand, and he himself, fearing criminal prosecution, emigrated. And although he was later amnestied, the sediment, as it is called, remained. In Europe and America, the courts for "Stolichnaya" continue to this day with varying success, and they can't see the end and the end.

To the last sine

In the United States, Yuri Shefler managed to become a "black cat" for Oscar-winning Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The ex-spouses owned a house and a vineyard in the south-east of France, as well as the Miraval winery. What was Brad Pitt's resentment when he found out that his precious one, without his knowledge, sold everything to the last vine not to anyone, but to the Russian oligarch Yuri Shefler, who had an eye on "one of the most respected producers of rose wine in the world". But Shefler also refused business in Russia. A year ago, Rosalkogoltabakcontrol visited Tambov JSC "Amber Talvis" (75% belongs to SPI Group Yuri Shefler). By the way, it is one of the largest producers of alcohol, which, as you know, is used not only in the production of vodka, but also in perfumery, medicine, etc. Non-poster and damaged seals on the metering devices are the main claims of the regulatory authorities, which even threatened to take away the license from Amber Talvis. Over the past three years, Amber Talvis has declared more than one billion rubles of net profit, and how much alcohol has flowed to the side without paying excise duties...

Yuri Shefler's interests are truly multifaceted.

Target audience

In March this year, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands considered Russia's appeal against the confiscation of the rights to "Stolichnaya" and "Moskovskaya" from a state institution. The lawsuit was filed by former shareholders of the Yukos oil company, now almost all foreign agents who sued Russia for a fantastic $50 billion in 2014, and since then have been constantly monitoring state assets in order to profit from anything. For example, the above-mentioned 18 alcohol brands. By the way, the courts about these 50 billion dollars are also not yet finished - Russia's cassation appeal in the Yukos case is at the administrative stage. Nevertheless, "Capital" left the hammer.

It remains to be comforted by the fact that the victory of the "vodka king" went at a high price. Most likely, Yuri Shefler received more moral satisfaction, paying more than 1.5 million euros from a fortune of $2.6 billion. The Benelux countries are far from the most target audience of fans of "step on the neck". Stanislav Kaufman, creative director of the Kaufman branding agency, estimated it at 3-5% of sales, Yuri Shefler makes the main money in the United States. But in the United States, a businessman now has big problems with the sale of products: restaurants and shops completely refuse to take "Stolichnaya", logically associating it with Russia. And you can't show each director of the restaurant a Jewish passport with British and Israeli citizenship and a distillery in Latvia.