Born in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, Vassily Anisimov was a Soviet-era supply guy who started out in wholesale clothing and eventually found himself stocking a nuclear power plant outside Moscow. In 1989, he became a Russian agent for the New York commodities-trading firm IBE and a Spanish company importing brick-making machinery for aluminum factories. Soon, Anisimov was acquiring shares in aluminum plants, mines, and factories.
Promotional literature for his company, Coalco, boasts that Anisimov was exporting aluminum products with the help of Marc Rich AG—at a time when Rich, who was known as Aluminumfinger, was still in control there. Anisimov founded Coalco with one of Rich’s top men in Moscow.
Anna said she believed her father eventually came to own a factory where he once worked first as a machine operator (she lifted her arm and made a cranking motion), and then as a manager. “He is a self-made man,” she declared with obvious pride. “My dad says I always remind him of himself because in school he was basically the same as me,” she added. “He sometimes got into trouble, you know, but when it came to business and all that, he always knew what he was doing.”
Aluminum was the most criminal sphere of the Russian economy. Occasionally, executives were assassinated, and the bloodiest battle was fought for the second-largest smelter in the world: Krasnoyarsk.
Anisimov bought shares in Krasnoyarsk in 1997, which effectively meant he now had a considerable percentage of total world production. But it also meant he had to work with the other shareholders: Lev Chernoy, the Russian agent for London-based Trans World, denounced by Russia’s Interior Ministry for his criminal connections, and the local godfather Anatoly “The Bull” Bykov, who had won his power after a mob war that filled three alleys in the cemetery. In Russia, Anisimov is considered a businessman and not a gangster. When Anna’s half-sister was murdered, people initially speculated that Bykov might be involved, as he and Anisimov had recently feuded.
“The one thing my dad is concerned with about this whole press thing,” said Anna, “is that they wrote an article mentioning the death of his daughter. It is true, but to say he got out of his business because of that was inaccurate. It had nothing to do with him. They made it sound so shady!”
After his daughter’s death, Anna’s father suddenly announced he was getting out of aluminum entirely, citing the “colossal pressure.” He also found his Russian Orthodox faith, Anna told friends—who had wondered whether he was Russian mafia but seemed comforted by this notion.
Anna maintains she never met Denise Rich before this summer and had never even spent time with her father’s ex-partners Len Blavatnik (a longtime Park Avenue resident now moving to a $74 million house in London for tax reasons) or the bearded Victor Vekselberg, who has a $5 million home in Weston, Connecticut, and whose daughter is at Yale business school. “I don’t really have anything to do with them. My dad would love it if I did. But I think my mom would be against it.” She said her dad is always harping on Putin, but she tunes out. What about the guys her dad came up with, whom Putin had in his sights and who then had to leave the country? “Half of them are in jail now,” she said with a laugh, then clapped a hand over her mouth.
“Ow! I bit my tongue!” she murmured, those big blue eyes widening.
When she was born, her dad was expecting a son, said Anna. “He was always concerned about who was going to take over. He calls me at eight o’clock on the nose in the morning and wakes me up. He calls me several times a day. And now that I got involved in the business, he seems so proud.” She likes to sit in on her father’s business meetings. “He treats everybody equally.” All new employees receive a copy of the Russian folktale about a mouse who ultimately helps the peasant family yank a turnip out of the ground. But her father is a more intense guy than this would imply: “I worry that he only sleeps four hours a night,” Anna said. “He spends more time in his plane than he does on the ground. If you take his cell phone and throw it away, he grabs another one out of his pocket!”
Anisimov “was never a public kind of guy,” she said. “And he had that opportunity. When I started doing this, he did lecture me about it. ‘You have to be prepared to give up certain aspects of your private life,’ he said.”
But she thought she could tread in his footsteps the American way; she didn’t require the services of twenty bodyguards like he did. After Forbes Russia expressed interest in doing an article on him, using Anna as the entry point, she said, “It was funny because he called me and he was like, ‘Well, daughter, thanks a lot.’ ”
Already, she was seeing that the business world had little in common with the intrigues at Chandler Enterprises on All My Children, which she and her sister often taped. A Website had called Anna a “cheap bitch,” but she was amused by that. “My dad taught me one thing: Never take anything personally.”
Among other things, Vassily Anisimov has shifted his attention to real estate, and this has been a father-daughter bonding experience. Not long ago, he was here in New York with Russia’s powerful minister of Telecommunications, Leonid Reiman, talking to executives about skyscraper construction. Anisimov has an office building and a billion-dollar airport-cargo terminal under way in Moscow, but American real estate may be a safer destination for the family’s Tortola and Switzerland savings at this moment. Coral Realty has spent close to $50 million buying five buildings now leased to housing-hungry New York University as dormitories, and almost $28 million to develop the Tribeca-trendy Sugar Warehouse and the Electra, a luxury rental on First Avenue in the Nineties. The family is also converting Bal Harbour’s Beekman Hotel into condominiums and has just acquired 10.5 acres in Jersey City from Morgan Stanley to develop a $200 million residential project.
The well-publicized Diane Von Furstenberg townhouse deal was Anna’s first dip into development; other brokers considered the West Village property overpriced at the final $23 million, even if Anna plans to build a twelve-story condominium here. (A building going up catty-corner stands to steal away most of the view.) But her family very badly wanted a presence in the super-hot meatpacking district. Diane put her son, Alex, in charge of the transaction. “The great thing about it is that we knew each other and we were friendly, so it wasn’t businesslike,” Anna said. Deal terms were hashed out at Bar Pitti and Soho House. Now Anna was talking about opening a DVF store in Moscow and installing a cool-concept sushi-restaurant-slash-lounge and maybe a beauty salon at another building in the West Village. “I’m dying to get a BlackBerry,” she said. “Everyone has one.”
Anna’s club-promoter friend Mike Heller helped get her together with Alex Von Furstenberg; for his services, he was awarded an almost $700,000 broker’s fee he’s since used to buy himself a Murray Hill townhouse. Jeff Goldstein was now suggesting real-estate deals. The restless power-brokering could be traced to a neurosis peculiar to the city’s born-rich babies.
“Growing up in private school, you’re with the wealthiest people in the world,” said Heller. “Certain people want to just live off their inheritances, and others want to take their money and their genes to the next level. Anna’s been adopted into our group of friends who want to continue doing things. It’s a young group, and we’re going to be very successful, probably a lot sooner than our parents. In the big picture, I see Anna surrounding herself with peers who are definitely going to spring her into the right projects.”
Anna’s father joked that if he’d known she was going to buy Von Furstenberg’s house, he wouldn’t have slapped down $10 million for her new two-bedroom in the Time Warner Center. (Anna and her sister currently live in a $4 million apartment in the Chatham on East 65th Street.) Asked what attracted her to Columbus Circle, Anna replied, “Absolutely nothing! It was kind of a surprise for me!” She laughed. “I think my dad heard about the building. And like I said before, if my dad likes something, he goes right for it.” On the 75th floor of the south tower, Anna’s apartment looks down on Boris Berezovky’s $3.2 million pad next door at Trump International and the Vekselberg family’s $3 million pied-à-terre in Broadway’s Park Millennium.
This summer, Anna was reporting to Coalco command central, improbably located on the top floor of NYU’s Broome Street dormitory. “I’m totally involved in everything,” she said. “If I’m not, my dad would kick my butt. The thing he loves so much about me being part of the company is that I’m young and I have social skills and know people. Because it’s all about meeting people!” Hamptons magazine proclaimed that “knowing Anna” was in, but that “hustling her” was most definitely out. In Los Angeles two weeks ago with her father, where they went to look at some property, Anna said she also met with an agent to discuss her future—as an actress.
"We have something to tell you,” said Anna’s friend Candice Levy, slipping into a chaise next to Anna’s in Denise Rich’s backyard. She, too, was gliding about the clambake in an evening gown, a lagoon-blue Hervé Leger. “We’re starting a clothing company together.”
“It’s loungewear, lingerie—stuff you’d wear at home that’s comfortable and sexy,” Anna explained, stubbing out her cigarette on the slate pool deck and vanishing into the house, where a guard was now posted outside. Only when the sun was finally blotted from the sky did she come out again, a hot-pink glow stick pythoned around her neck. The D.J. cued “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” on the turntable, and Anna and Candice began to dance.