Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler is at the center of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's legal battle over their French estate, just as oligarchs in his native country are facing sanctions due to Russia's war on Ukraine.
The former Hollywood couple purchased a controlling interest in Château Miraval in 2008 "as a home to share with their children and the vineyard as a family business," Pitt's complaint obtained by Fox Business states.
In a lawsuit filed last month, Pitt claims he and Jolie "agreed they would never sell their respective interests in Miraval without the other's consent." However, the "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" actor claims Jolie broke that promise by selling her interest to Shefler.
Jolie used her social media reach last week to share a statement on the Russia-Ukraine conflict in her capacity as special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"Like many of you, I’m praying for the people in Ukraine," Jolie said in the statement. "My focus along with my @refugees colleagues is that everything possible is done to ensure the protection and basic human rights of those displaced, and refugees in the region."
"We have already seen reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety. It is too soon to know what will happen, but the significance of this moment – for the people of Ukraine, and for the international rule of law – cannot be overstated."
Meanwhile, Shefler is known for flying under the radar despite being a key player in world-renowned brands. Check out more about Jolie's mystery buyer below.
1. He was born and educated in Russia
The tycoon's birthplace was Oryol, Russia, according to reports.
Shefler also reportedly obtained a bachelor's degree from Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, a public research university in Moscow.
2. He's the owner of SPI Group, known for Stolichnaya vodka
The Russian-born tycoon is the owner of SPI Group, which was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Luxembourg. The company operates in over 170 markets, and produces, sells and distributes over 380 brands.
According to its website, SPI Group's core company is Stoli Group, known for Stolichnaya vodka.
Stoli Group says it denounces Russian aggression on its website.
"The safety and security of our Ukrainian team is our top priority. We are monitoring the situation closely and are already moving swiftly and decisively to provide support where needed, both to our people on the ground as well as partners," noted Damian McKinney, Global CEO. "While we do not have any operations in Russia, we do in Ukraine and across many of the bordering countries."
Despite the company's statement, bars, liquor stores and even government officials are turning their backs on Russian-made and branded products – mainly vodka – in retaliation for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Over the past week, the boycott against vodka has grown. In an effort to support Ukraine, Total Wine and More, which operates 229 stores across 27 states, announced on social media that it "removed all Russian-made products from our shelves."
Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued an executive order directing the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to "remove all Russian-produced and Russian-branded products from its shelves immediately." He said in a statement that the state "will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange."
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu also signed an executive order requiring state liquor outlets to remove Russian-made and branded alcohol, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine directed the state’s commerce department to cease the purchase and sale of Russian Standard, the only Russian vodka sold in Ohio.
Over the weekend, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told his Twitter followers that he "asked the members of the Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Package Stores Association & all Texas retailers to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves."
3. He's a billionaire
Forbes lists 54-year-old Shefler's net worth at an estimated $2.4 billion.
As of March 2022, Shefler is listed as 1,205 on the of the world's richest billionaires.
A sprawling mansion he owns in Surrey was said to be worth $19.3 million.
4. He's married to Victoria's Secret model
Shefler is married to Russian Victoria's Secret model Tatiana Kovylina, 40. She is the founder of the luxury London- based activewear brand Silou.
According to reports, Kovylina and Shefler have four children together.
The model opened up about the Russia-Ukraine crisis in an Instagram post this week.
"There is not a single logical, understandable or rational explanation for what is happening now ... Except that "someone" wanted it that way. And it's a f---ing nightmare!" her caption, translated, reads in part.
5. Shefler, along with his vodka brand, was exiled from Russia
Russia's Supreme Court ruled Shefler's purchase of the Stoli brand illegal in 2001, meaning Shefler was banned from selling the vodka in his native country, reports say.
Stoli's website states that Shefler and the vodka brand were exiled from Russia nearly two decades ago.
"As the Founder of SPI Group of companies, I have personally experienced persecution by the Russian authorities and I share the pain of Ukraine and its people," Shefler said in a statement.