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Russian heiress reportedly buying famed Greek island of Skorpios

In this picture, taken on August of 2007, a partial view of Skorpios island - purchased for $20,000 by the late Artistotle Onassis in 1963.

Vasiliki Varvaki/iStockphoto

It would seem the Rybolovlev family is behind yet another huge real estate deal. This time in financially troubled Greece.

Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the 24-year-old daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, has reportedly bought Skorpios, the private Greek island owned by Athina Onassis Roussel, the sole heir of late shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

A representative of Rybolovlev's family investment office confirmed the deal with Reuters this week, saying, "Ekaterina is delighted that the trust has negotiated this purchase …

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She regards the acquisition as a long-term financial investment."

The price of the pending deal is unknown, though several Greek news outlets have have reported a price tag in the $150-million (U.S.) range. In the early 2000s, the property was valued as high as $200-million, before the country's economy took a nosedive in the European financial crisis.

The transaction, which also included the small nearby island of Sparti, is said to likely take the form of a long-term lease due to the fact that Aristotle Onassis's will reportedly stated that his beloved isle could not be sold or leave the family, according to Reuters.

Whatever the final deal, Ms. Rybolovleva can afford it. Or more aptly, her father can. Dmitry Rybolovlev is worth $9.1-billion by Forbes's estimate, making him the 119th richest person in the world. His wealth is largely derived from his former ownership stake in Uralkali, Russia's largest producer of potassium fertilizer, which he sold out of in 2010 for $6.5-billion.

Mr. Rybolovlev's daughter is said to be acquiring Skorpios and Sparti for business as well as pleasure, with plans to improve the islands using "environmentally friendly technology," according to Greek news outlet Greek Reporter.

Spanning 74 acres in the Ionian Sea, Skorpios sits off the west coast of mainland Greece. Mr. Onassis purchased the barren isle for less than $20,000 in 1963. The shipping scion piped in utilities, imported sand, planted forests, and built a family compound that includes three residences, a helicopter pad and a boat quay. He married former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy there in 1968, bringing world attention to Greece as a vacation destination.

After Mr. Onassis's 1975 death, the private island passed down through the family, becoming the property of Athina Onassis Roussel, his 28-year old granddaughter and sole living heir, in 1988 after her mother Christina died of a heart attack. The shipping scion, Christina and his son Alexander are all buried on the island.

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The heiress has reportedly spent little time on Skorpios, which has been the subject of wild sale rumors since 2009. Married to Brazilian Olympic showjumper Alvaro de Miranda Neto, Ms. Onassis Roussel lives in Sao Paulo.

As for Ms. Rybolovleva, the private island won't be the only trophy property in her portfolio. The Russian heiress also owns a penthouse apartment in Manhattan's elite building 15 Central Park West, purchased via trust last year. After a mere month on the market, the 6,744-square-foot condo, listed by former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill, fetched the full $88-million asking price from Ms. Rybolovleva in one of the U.S.'s most expensive home sales ever.

Mr. Rybolovlev himself has become a trophy home collector in recent years. In 2008 he plunked down $95-million – the highest price ever paid at the time for a U.S. single family home – in cash for Donald Trump's 60,000-square-foot Palm Beach mansion, Maison de L'Amitie. In 2011 he reportedly paid more than $300-million for the La Belle Epoque penthouse in Monaco, where he lives. And that same year, the billionaire picked up a seven-acre Hawaiian villa in Kauai from movie star Will Smith for $20-million.

The question now raised will be whether Skorpios is truly a pursuit of daughter Ekaterina – or the latest transaction in a string of alleged straw buyer transactions for her father, who is currently going through divorce.

Last year, the billionaire's soon-to-be ex Elena Rybolovleva, his wife of 24 years and mother of his two children (including Ekaterina), filed a suit in Manhattan Supreme Court centered around her daughter's $88-million penthouse, alleging that the purchase was done with "the specific intent of hiding and diverting his personal interest in the property."

Prior to that, she got a court order in Geneva to freeze his assets worldwide, and has been seeking transfer of ownership of Maison de L'Amitie in Florida.

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