$40 million pays cabdriver from Georgia for New York mansion

A former cabdriver from Georgia who made a fortune in Russian oil and Manhattan real estate has bought a Fifth Avenue mansion for a record $40 million (Ђ33 million). Tamir Sapir, who immigrated to the United States 30 years ago, said he signed a contract last week to buy a 1901 Beaux-Arts mansion across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city's affluent Upper East side.

The price was the highest ever paid for a Manhattan town house, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Tapir, 58, left Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, in 1973 and lived in Israel, Germany, and Louisville, Kentucky, before settling in New York in 1976. After driving a cab for three years, he opened an electronics store where he had visiting Russian diplomats as customers. One of those relationships, he said, helped him launch other business endeavors, selling fertilizers, and eventually oil contracts, in Europe.

In the early 1990s Sapir began investing in New York real estate and bought a downtown building for $2.2 million. He sold it one year later for nearly three times as much and has since bought several other Manhattan buildings. Sapir who currently lives in an apartment on Fifth Avenue's Trump Tower, said he was attracted to his latest acquisition by its location and history. The house, known as the Duke Semans mansion, has 11 marble fireplaces, three elevators, and gold-leaf trimmed fixtures. He said he is considering moving into the mansion's penthouse on the sixth and seventh floors with his companion, Elena Bonomareva, and their 2-year-old daughter, reports the AP. N.U.

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