They were business partners before their relationship soured. Now it seems that the animosity between Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, two of Russia's most famous and wealthy expatriates, has reached a new low at a very high-fashion spot -- Hermes.
British tabloid the Daily Mail reported that shoppers enjoying a spot of sunshine on London's exclusive Sloane Street were treated to a bizarre sight last weekend when archrivals Berezovsky and Abramovich staged a very public showdown inside the luxury-goods boutique.
According to the Mail, Berezovsky, 61, was shopping in the designer shop Dolce & Gabbana when he spotted Abramovich, 41, in the Hermes store, two doors away.
The Russian tycoon then ordered one of his bodyguards to bring him a $10 billion legal writ for Abramovich from his limousine parked near the store. As Berezovsky headed into the Hermes shop, legal documents in hand, reports say that Abramovich's bodyguards tried to block him from entering the shop.
As both men's bodyguards scuffled with each other, the 61-year-old tycoon barged his way past them and confronted his former protégé and one-time partner.
According to an unidentified onlooker quoted in the Mail, Berezovsky told the owner of London's famous Chelsea soccer club, "I've got a present for you. This is for you, from me."
Abramovich's reported response was to pull his hands away, letting the legal documents fall straight to the floor.
Monday, neither Hermes staffers nor those at the nearby Christian Dior boutique were willing to confirm reports of this incident.
When ABC News contacted the Hermes store, nervous employees would only say, "We can't say anything about this. We know the story you are talking about, but we cannot confirm anything."
The response was much the same at Christian Dior's Sloane Street store. The Mail reported that one of the shop's security guards said, "There seemed to be a lot of tension and confusion" between the two men.
"It wasn't clear what was going on, but people were getting very excited. Then the groups headed off in different directions," the unidentified guard told the Mail.
When ABC News contacted the company's U.K. press office, a spokeswoman said only that she "didn't think anyone at Christian Dior would comment on such an incident."
One person who was willing to talk about it was Berezovsky himself.
No stranger to press attention, the Russian millionaire is well known in Britain for his open defiance of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the past six months alone, he has claimed to be an assassination target on Putin's orders, and gave an interview to ABC News saying that he had had to flee Britain for three weeks in the summer to ensure his safety.
Monday morning, he released a statement to ABC News, confirming the weekend's events.
"I did take the opportunity Saturday to serve a writ on Mr. Abramovich," Berezovsky said, adding, "this means that the matter can now formally enter the legal system and be resolved in that way."
Berezovsky first discussed plans to sue Abramovich in July 2005.
He claimed that Abramovich had pressured him into selling his stakes in the Sibneft oil firm, Russian Aluminium (Russia's biggest aluminium maker) and the television channel ORT, at knock-down prices, after he left Russia and found political asylum in the United Kingdom.