The pandemic has even affected billionaires.
For Igor Olenicoff, the colorful owner of Orange County-based property management company Olen Properties, a sudden lockdown in 2020 resulted in $100,000 room charges at the Bahamas resort Atlantis.
Olenicoff says they were unwarranted — and he’s suing the resort, its owner Brookfield, its partner Marriott and American Express. (Apparently credit limits weren’t the issue.)
Olenicoff’s reproach goes back to the early days of the virus: In March 2020, according to the civil complaint filed earlier this month in federal district court, Olenicoff arrived at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Marina on his yacht from company, “RUSALKA”. The billionaire developer had planned to soak up the Caribbean sun for three months, but his itinerary quickly changed.
“Unfortunately, almost immediately upon arrival, [Olenicoff] learned of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and were ordered to immediately evacuate The Bahamas,” the complaint reads. “The entire Atlantis resort and marina was closed and guests were taken to the airport to leave Nassau as port control authorities were also closed.”
Olenicoff claims he had no choice but to leave the yacht moored at the resort’s marina and no one from the resort was available to discuss or negotiate the fee. He returned to pick up the boat four months later, in July, and was hit with around $100,000 in credit card charges for a stay that never happened, he claims.
“The ‘room charge’ assessed by [Atlantis] was clearly a misnomer,” the complaint continues, “because no one was occupying the hotel at any time, and neither the Atlantis Marina nor the resort were staffed and open to provide services.
The complaint mentions that a crew member remained on board the boat; he also points to a statement filed with Atlantis which he says was signed by a deckhand and not by Olenicoff.
Plaintiffs Olenicoff and Olen Properties name Island Hotel Company Limited, the operator of Atlantis, along with Brookfield Hospitality Properties, the resort’s owner, and its partner Marriott International. The suit also names American Express, which authorized resort fees.
A representative for Atlantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative from American Express also did not immediately respond.
Olenicoff, a longtime South Florida resident in his mid-80s, is familiar with both the high life and high-profile conflict.
The future tycoon was born near Moscow into a family linked to the Tsarists, but as a young child he fled Russia for Iran, according to some reports. (Other reports claim that Olenicoff was actually born in northern Iran, territory then occupied by the Soviets.) When Olenicoff was 15, the family arrived in New York, according to a Forbes article in 2006, then headed west; Olenicoff, who became a naturalized American, attended USC before later founding Olen Properties, a Newport Beach-based developer and property management company that now ranks among Southern California’s largest. Olen, according to his website, has a portfolio of residential properties nationwide, including Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina; it also owns and manages various commercial properties in California, Florida and Illinois.
Along the way, Olenicoff became very wealthy, with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $4.7 billion. He also familiarized himself with the American legal system: in 2007, Olenicoff pleaded guilty to federal tax charges for his ownership of offshore accounts in the Bahamas, Switzerland and elsewhere. He agreed to pay $52 million to settle the case and avoid jail time.
In 2014, a jury also ordered Olenicoff to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 2016 art forgery case, in what Olenicoff insisted was “sheer nonsense and workmanship”, he also appeared in the Panama Papers.
“For a change, I am in good company. Every world leader is named there,’ Olenicoff told Forbes. “Usually it’s just me, the successful Russian immigrant. I evolved in the world.
Even ‘Rusalka’, Olenicoff’s yacht – or an earlier version of it – made headlines: Decades ago, in 1990, Olenicoff claimed the 87ft was moored off Cozumel when dozens of Mexican narcotics agents, in a vain search for drugs, stormed aboard and destroyed the ship’s elegant interior, slashing the silk upholstery and taking hammers from the woodwork in expensive teak. Olenicoff also claimed that two deckhands were arrested in the scuffle and blamed the ordeal on a drug policy between the US and Mexican governments.
“It’s an absolute mess,” Olenicoff said of the boat at the time.
Olenicoff’s new civil suit seeks a jury trial.