Russian Investing in ... WNBA Stars?
'Crazy people to do some crazy things,' billionaire says of his lavish hoop jones
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2008 12:45 PM CDT
Women's basketball team Spartak celebrate after winning 76-62 against Gaumbinus at the Euroleague Women's Final Four basketball match in Vidnoe, outside Moscow, April 1 2007.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Basketball-crazy Russian billionaire Shabtai von Kalmanovic is pouring money into women's hoops—flying WNBA players to Russia in the off-season and paying them 10 times what they make in the US. Players like Diana Taurasi are put up in luxury digs and chauffeured around. "They should be treated like people of art, like stars," Kalmanovic tells the Los Angeles Times.

Kalmanovic made his money constructing buildings in black sections of apartheid South Africa. He has been linked romantically to Liza Minnelli, the Times reports, and imprisoned in Israel for being a Soviet spy. Players getting the star treatment don't seem to care much about their employer's past, however. "I don't know those things to be true or not," says one.