Yuri Scheffler, 54, fired Vlad Zabelin over the phone to “punish” the £180,000-a-year investment director for complaining (Photo: Rex/Shutterstock/LinkedIn)

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.”

Billionaire Scheffler, who has a mansion in Surrey which he bought for £14.5m in 2008, has ‘lost patience’ with his boss (Image: Capital Vodka)
During a phone conversation in June 2020, Zabelin was “suddenly” informed that he was being fired (photo: LinkedIn)

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.

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Russian vodka tycoon to pay worker £1,600,000 after sacking him for objecting to job cuts

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