Goga Ashkenazi makes her mark on society
The girl from Kazakhstan moves with London’s jet set, counts Prince Andrew as her closest friend
That, so to speak, was her coming out party and ever since the business world and society columns have been watching her with bated breath –especially when she describes how she made her fortune on her own albeit with the assistance of assorted romantic relationships. But this is no Cinderella story. Ashkenazi grew up in Kazakhstan in a home in which both parents have doctorate degrees and strong ties at the top echelons of society. Her sister, Meruert Berkalieva, is a PhD in economics and her business partner.
Her Jewish surname was acquired through marriage to Stefan Ashkenazy, a young American from Los Angeles who is the son of Severyn Ashkenazy, a Holocaust survivor, art dealer and owner of a chain of luxury hotels and a large construction company. The couple had one child, Adam, now five. They divorced in 2007 after less than four years of marriage and after she met the Kazakh oil tycoon Timur Kulibayev, who is married to the president of Kazakhstan’s daughter and controls the country’s oil and gas natural resources. The two fell in love, and from that moment the course of her life shifted radically. That relationship also produced a son, Alan, who is a year old.
Goga (Gaokar) Ashkenazi lives a lifestyle befitting the modern jet set. In August 2007, shortly after her divorce, she bought a house in Holland Park, London, for the paltry sum of £28 million in cash, which was £3 million above the asking price. She invested another £10 million in refurbishments, including a gold-leaf decorated ceiling and a personal staff of 15 including chefs, doormen, nannies, bodyguards, a chauffeur, and a Bentley.
To her credit, in no interview to date has she ever hid the fact that she was helped along the way by her valuable connections. But it was not just the connections. Ashkenazi is a mesmerizing, young, educated, talented, and yes, so very sexy woman occasionally wearing transparent clothes that display the full glory of her willowy figure. She also has been photographed half-naked, illustrating the pages of prominent magazines.
Ashkenazi enjoys her life, having declared that she wants to “conquer the world” – which she is doing.
Goga’s jet set
This is a group of young people whose lifestyle is a far cry from that with which we are familiar, including oligarchs with palaces around the world, scions and heirs of international empires with business and social ties at the very top. Prince Andrew is said to be “besotted” with her and has introduced her to the Queen.
Her clique of jet setters also includes the banker Nat Rothschild, Lord Edward Spencer-Rothschild and Lapo Elkann, heir of the Fiat conglomerate and Ashkenazi’s current beau. Not all are billionaires, however. Those with smaller bank accounts include the likes of racing driver Flavio Briatore, one of Goga’s past flames, telecommunications millionaire Dino Lalvani and pop star Nick Rhodes and others.
Goga’s business associates range from the financier Robert Hanson to the Canadian mining magnate Robert Friedland and – a rare woman in her company – society stylist Caroline Stanbury, a former girlfriend of Prince Andrew, whom Goga describes as her closest pal.
Goga’s global endeavors
In interviews to the London Daily Mail and The Independent, Ashkenazi has described the turning point in her business life as the tender offer she made at age 24 to purchase a government-owned company providing services to the oil industry in Kazakhstan. It was a bid she won. Her good relationship with the Kazakh administration, she says, contributed to her success. Her empire operates in all countries of the former Eastern bloc, as well as in Turkey and Iran.
Her dealing with the gold mining joint venture Altynalmas sheds light on her business style. On April 11, 2011 The Londen-based Telegraph reported in its Internet edition that, “she confirmed to the Sunday Telegraph “that she ‘sold her … holding in Altynalmas, … last year. ‘I was in fact a shareholder and a director of the company until I sold my ownership [interest] and resigned as director as a result,” she disclosed adding, “The deal was very lucrative, one of the successful deals.” As in other business affairs, the key to Goga’s success here is Timur Kulibayev.
In November 2012 Ashkenazi acquired full ownership of Vionnet, a century old French fashion brand (http://vionnet.com). She is also the Director General of MunaiGaz-Engineering Group (http://mmgglobalconsulting.com), which, according to the company’s website is “a specialist management consultancy that seeks to establish international partnerships in which it can become an active manager and stakeholder alongside foreign businesses and stakeholders seeking to pursue commercial opportunities within the Eastern European and the Central Asian regions.” She wants to serve an active partner in those projects and provide support, advice, guidance, direction and, of course, her valuable access to the tops of the various power pyramids.