A Russian vodka tycoon who sacked a UK chief executive after he objected to “drastic” pay cuts during the pandemic must pay him £1.6m in compensation.
Yuriy Scheffler, 54, sacked Vlad Zabelin over the phone to “punish” the £180,000-a-year investment director for complaining, a court heard.
Mr Zabelin accused Scheffler, owner of vodka maker SPI Group Stolichnaya, of using Covid “as an excuse” to cut wages “unnecessarily” when the firm was still making a profit.
But the billionaire, who has a mansion in Surrey which he bought for £14.5million in 2008, “lost patience” with his manager and sacked him “out of hand”.
Employment Judge Lewis awarded London-based Mr Zabelin £1,626,452 for unfair dismissal against Scheffler and UK subsidiary SPI Spirits.
The tribunal was told that Scheffler, who is married to a Victoria’s Secret model and is reportedly worth £2billion, cut the wages of all his 2,000 staff by 30% when the pandemic began.
In March 2020, Mr. Zabelin initially agreed to a three-month pay cut, but was later told it would continue despite SPI “continuing to engage in costly mergers and acquisitions.”
In a phone call to Scheffler in June of that year, Mr. Zabelin “expressed concern” that SPI was using the pandemic as an excuse to cut wages and bonuses.
As a result, Scheffler told him “out of the blue” that he was being fired, the judge said.
Scheffler, who has four children with 40-year-old model Tatsiana Kavilina, made the Forbes list of the world’s richest billionaires in 2021.
Contact our news team by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check out our news page.
Get the latest news, good stories, analysis and more