Is Shelly Habib Based on an Actual Russian Mobster? Is Alexander Habib Organization Real?

The biographical film, ‘Molly’s Game,’ based on the life of Molly Bloom— particularly her involvement in running a high-stakes Poker Game that ends up on the wrong side of the law— remains true to the woman’s life in many aspects while fictionalizing some other details. Therefore, once the narrative rises in stakes— alongside the lucrative model of Molly’s business— the woman’s life begins to get wilder, adding movie stars, Wall Street billionaires, and even the Russian mob into Molly’s professional circles. Consequently, with the film’s inclusion of Shelly Habib of the Alexander Habib Organization, who has possible connections to the Russian crime syndicate, viewers are bound to be intrigued about the realism behind that particular storyline and character.

The Similarities Between Shelly Habib and Hillel Nahmad

‘Molly’s Game’ adapts most of its events and characters from Molly Bloom’s actual autobiographical book, translating her life story, as told by her, onto the screen with a few embellishments. Furthermore, where Bloom refrained from exposing numerous people’s real identities while unveiling others’, the film entirely fictionalizes new identities for almost every character. Consequently, Shelly Habib remains a fictional character with noticeable inspiration to the real-life individuals involved in Molly’s Poker Nights. However, Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, the art curator, emerges with prominent similarities to Shelly Habib.

In 2013, when the scandal revolving around Bloom’s illegal gambling events entered the public limelight, the authorities were also looking into connected Russian-American organized crime schemes. According to Bloom’s own admission, a few such Russian-American businessmen with ties to the mob ended up partaking in her Poker Games despite her vetting process.

The same, paired with Bloom’s raking practices, resulted in getting her charged in a case against 30 defendants for involvement in illegal gambling rings. Nahmad, a known art dealer in possession of rare paintings, such as 300 Picassos, and sold Monets, Matisses, Warhols, and more on his Madison Avenue Gallery at the time— was another charged party. As a result, the man— estimated at $1.75 billion by Forbes, underwent an FBI raid at the time of his arrest. He initially pleaded not guilty in early 2013. “We do not believe Mr. Nahmad knowingly violated the law,” they said before asserting their expectation for his exoneration.

Nevertheless, Nahmad went on to admit his involvement in the gambling ring by November of the same year. “Judge, this all started as a group of friends betting on sports events, but I recognize that I crossed the line,” said Nahmad in court. The man reportedly went on to receive an Executive Clemency and a full and unconditional pardon in 2021 but continues to be recognized for his run-in with the law and the Russian mob.

Consequently, Jon Bass’ character in ‘Molly’s Game,’ appears as an evident on-screen reference to Nahmad. Even though Bass’ character, Shelly Habib, barely plays a significant role in Molly’s on-screen narrative, his character establishes the woman’s ill-advised run-in with people holding connections to the Russian mob. Moreover, the narrative also introduces Shelly with the man’s offer of exchanging a seven million dollar Monet when he forgets to bring enough cash for the entry charge into Molly’s Poker Night. Thus, the parallels between Shelly Habib and Hillel Nahmad persist.

As a result of the same, one can perceive The Alexander Habib organization, depicted in the film as Shelly’s art gallery, as Nahmad’s real-life organization, Helly Nahmad Gallery. Nevertheless, the former isn’t featured enough in the film to draw any substantial comparisons outside of the Gallery’s connections to their heirs.

Ultimately, the film’s depiction of Shelly’s involvement in Molly Bloom’s Poker Game Nights as an art curator with connections to the Russian Mob cement the woman’s run-in with the crime syndicate. Yet, by infusing a few more details into his character— particularly his penchant for expensive art— the film ensures that the character draws clear inspiration from Hillel Nahmad, rendering Shelly Habib as a possible interpretation of the real-life art curator.

Read More: Good Grief Renewed For Season 2 at Bell Fibe TV1