This footage of Evening Standard and Independent owner Alexander Lebedev punching Russian property tycoon Sergei Polonsky on a talk show is sensational.
Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev attacked a fellow businessman during the pre-recording of a talk show for TV channel NTV.
Video: ITN News
Video: ITN NEWS
Lebedev later justified his onslaught, writing: “In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him.”
One view is that Polonsky had it coming. He famously once shouted at a party: “Anyone who does not have a billion can go to hell.”
But what are they actually saying in the video?
Here’s a translation, exclusive to LondonlovesBusiness.com, of the conversation leading up to the brawl.
Polonsky: I’ve heard this five times already today, everyone is a boss here, the pilots [pointing to Lebedev], the hen houses [pointing to the other guy], I’m honestly tired now, frankly I want to smack in the chops…
Lebedev: Well, go ahead, give it a try
Polonsky: You want to experiment?
Lebedev [standing up]: Are you totally nuts, mate? [sits down]
Polonsky: This man said three years ago that Federation Tower … [punch-punch]
After getting to his feet, Polonsky said “I’m in shock.”
Our translator, Ruslan Kuzamysh, says the words “pilots” and “hen houses” are references to the careers of Lebedev and the other guest.
The Federation Tower mentioned by Polonsky is the source of contention. A few years ago Polonsky was head of the Mirax Group, a construction giant in Russia, and Lebedev linked up to construct what would be Europe’s tallest building in Moscow’s financial district. In 2008 the Mirax Group was hit hard by Russia’s financial crisis and construction of the Federation Tower was abandoned. Creditors eventually assumed control and the Tower is still being finished.
Polonsky, one ranked as Russia’s 40th richest man by Forbes with a fortune of $4.35bn, announced earlier this year he would quit business, after the Mirax Group was dissolved owing to financial difficulties.
Punch-ups like this are frequent in Russia, where the outrageous behaviour of oligarchs is a part of daily conversation.
The aftermath to the brawl has been almost as entertaining as the event.
The Evening Standard owner has been supported by some.
Dmitri Rogozin, Russia’s representative to Nato, tweeted: “Nice one, Lebedev, although fighting is not good. He deserved it. You’re a real man.”
Polonsky has tweeted a photo of his ripped jeans, claiming he would consider legal action.
Lebedev responded: “Now he’s showing his ripped pants, and it is hard to say anything about that. He was hit in the face and he’s showing off a hole in the backside of his trousers. Strange.”