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Deceased Russian Minister Lesin's Former Mansions Up For Sale

Mikhail Lesin was found dead in a Washington hotel room two years ago.
Mikhail Lesin was found dead in a Washington hotel room two years ago.

WASHINGTON -- A second luxury Los Angeles mansion formerly owned by Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who was found dead in a Washington hotel room two years ago, has been put up for sale.

The pending sale of the 1,200-square-meter mansion, located in the posh Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, is the latest wrinkle in the mystery surrounding Lesin, who was an influential Kremlin insider until falling out of favor sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Gibson International, a California-based luxury real estate broker, listed the home this week at an asking price of $23 million. Another Los Angeles mansion owned by Lesin, which went up for sale in January for $29 million, was still listed on another broker's website as of July 25.

The listings were first reported by a Los Angeles real estate website called the Real Deal.

The two homes were bought in 2009 by a corporation Lesin set up called Dastel. Those purchases drew the scrutiny of U.S. law enforcement in December 2014 when U.S. Senator Roger Wicker asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the purchase of the homes violated U.S. money-laundering laws.

Dastel's registered owner was later changed, with Lesin's son, Anton, taking over. He has run a successful movie financing business in Hollywood for several years, providing backing to Hollywood films starring Brad Pitt and Robert De Niro.

Anton Lessine, who spells his name slightly differently than his father, could not be immediately reached for comment.

In the early 2000s, in the first years of Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration, Lesin served as press minister, where he helped to consolidate Kremlin control over the country's main television networks, including NTV. He later spearheaded the creation of a media holding company for the natural-gas giant Gazprom and oversaw the creation of the state-funded satellite channel called Russia Today, now known as RT.

Much of Lesin's wealth came from a private company he set up in the 1990s to sell television advertising on Russia's then-exploding television-advertising market. That company, called Video International, or VI, was later acquired by Yury Kovalchuk, the main shareholder of Bank Rossia, which has been closely linked to the Kremlin.

'Blunt-Force Injuries'

Lesin's body was found in the Dupont Circle Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015, two days after he had been expected to attend a dinner at the Kennan Institute, a Washington think tank specializing in Russia research.

The institute's dinner honored, among others, Pyotr Aven, a leading executive with Alfa Bank who had been responsible for obtaining an invitation for Lesin. Aven later cast doubt on speculation that Lesin had been murdered.

Lesin had also sought an invitation to a private dinner for Aven at the Atlantic Council the following night, November 4, but officials at the Atlantic Council declined the request.

After an investigation lasting nearly a year, the U.S. Attorney's office for Washington, D.C., and city police announced in October 2016 that Lesin's death was an accident, attributing it to "falls" that left him with "blunt -force injuries" after drinking heavily for several days. He was 57.

In April 2016, a luxury motor yacht that belonged to Lesin was sold by a Florida-based yacht brokerage. Although the boat had been listed at a price in the region of $40 million, the brokerage declined to give details of the purchase, saying only that it was an "impressively fast sale."

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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