It's not hard to imagine Shabtai von Karlmanovic going anecdote a anecdote with the Most Interesting Man in the World, the fictional, Hemingwayesque raconteur in those inspired Dos Equis commercials. Karlmanovic, a billionaire Russian businessman and owner of the Spartak Moscow pro team, was well known to women's basketball fans as a patron and father figure to some of the world's best players. But he was also a former KGB spy who spent nearly six years in an Israeli prison; he returned to Russia in the 1990s, made a mint in the construction business and amassed a world-renowned collection of Judaica and Russian folk art. In recent years he spent millions of dollars to lure and pamper such WNBA stars as Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, paying them as much as 10 times what they made in the U.S. They helped Spartak win the last three EuroLeague Women titles.
This is an article from the Nov. 16, 2009 issue
The story of Shabs, as Taurasi called him, came to a tragic end on Nov. 2, when he was killed in broad daylight by unknown gunmen while sitting in his Mercedes in downtown Moscow. (As of Monday, Russian authorities had no suspects.) The 60-year-old Karlmanovic, who was Jewish, was buried in Israel, where he was remembered as a generous spirit—and one of the world's most fervent supporters of women's hoops.