Ukraine-Born Oligarch Found Dead in UK

Surrey police describe Mikhail Watford's death as unexplained
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2022 9:17 AM CST
Ukraine-Born Oligarch Found Dead in UK
Dormy House on Wentworth Estate, the home Mikhail Watford was reportedly living in when he died, is shown in 2008.   (Wikimedia Commons/Rodolph?(R. de Salis))

A Ukraine-born oligarch has been found dead in unexplained circumstances at his home in the UK, according to Surrey police. Officers were called to a $24 million property on the exclusive Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water, Surrey, on Monday following the discovery of a body. "An ambulance was called but the man, who was in his 60s, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene," a police rep says, per the Guardian. The Sun reports Mikhail "Misha" Watford, who was born Mikhail Tolstosheya in Soviet-era Ukraine, was found by a gardener hanged in the garage. It cites a friend as saying the 66-year-old father of three feared he was a target of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The source likens the death to that of Watford's friend, Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, who'd had a falling out with Putin. He was found hanged in the UK in 2013 with a coroner later saying it was impossible to determine whether he died by suicide or was murdered. The friend said Watford believed Berezovsky had been killed by an intelligence agency. Watford's "state of mind might have been affected by the situation in the Ukraine," the person adds. The death comes amid intense focus on Russia's oligarchs, several of whom are under sanctions. "There is no suggestion, however, that Watford has been the target of British-backed sanctions," per the Guardian. He made his fortune in oil and gas after the fall of the Soviet Union, according to a 2015 Sunday Times profile.

Still, his childhood in Ukraine was cushy. "We had a big four-bedroom apartment with a bath, and a car—which, in terms of luxury, was the equivalent of travelling by jet now," the BBC quotes him as saying. Watford anglicized his name after moving to the UK with his Estonian wife, Jane. They initially settled in London before moving to Surrey's private Wentworth Estate, which has been home to "a host of famous athletes, musicians, actors and entertainers, financial figures and royalty," according to its website. Watford's mother, who lives on the property, was home at the time the body was found, per the Sun. Police describe the death as unexplained but not suspicious. (More United Kingdom stories.)

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