NEW YORK, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A Russian billionaire has purchased nearly 200 pieces of Faberge art from Malcolm Forbes' family to return to Russia, the New York Times said Thursday.
Victor Vekselberg reportedly spent $100 million through the Sotheby's auction house to acquire the lot, two months before nine imperial Easter eggs and some 180 other pieces were to be auctioned.
Vekselberg is the fourth richest man in Russia, according to Forbes Magazine, with a fortune estimated at $2.5 billion. He is the chairman of the Tyumen Oil Co. and Siberian-Urals Aluminum.
In a statement released by the auction house, Vekselberg said when he heard the collection was for sale he "knew immediately that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back to my country one of its most revered treasures."
Peter Carl Faberge, one of Russia's biggest and most successful producers of jewelry and art works, received his first royal commission from Czar Alexander III in 1885, to make an Easter present for his wife. His son, Nicholas II, later commissioned treasures for his wife and mother; the imperial Easter tradition lasted more than 30 years.