He’s a billionaire construction magnate who likes shiny and expensive things and built a luxury tower block adorned with his own name: it’s not surprising that people have referred to Aras Agalarov as the Russian Trump.
Agalarov and his pop singer son Emin have known the Trump family for years, and emails released this week by Donald Trump Jr suggest the Agalarovs may have been a conduit for Russian efforts to help the Trump camp.
The emails, from Emin Agalarov’s publicist Rob Goldstone to Trump Jr, suggest Aras Agalarov had been given “high level and sensitive information” from Russia’s top prosecutor, that he wanted to pass on to the Trump campaign as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”.
The explosive email chain, tweeted earlier this week by Trump Jr, puts Agalarov and his son firmly at the centre of the Russia scandal around the Trump presidency.
Where Agalarov differs from Trump, however, is that he is publicity shy and rarely seeks the limelight, a feature of the delicate political climate for Russia’s super-rich, in which excess spending is acceptable only if done away from the media glare.
“Aras is a very careful, shrewd operator, and he will be absolutely horrified that his name has been dragged into this,” said one source in Moscow who knows the Agalarovs.
Aras Agalarov was born in Azerbaijan (then part of the Soviet Union), but moved to Moscow and began his business in the way that many who would go on to become billionaires did – with barter deals and small trades. Later, he moved into computers and eventually launched a chain of luxury clothing and shoe shops, which would in time become the Crocus empire.
Aras is a very careful, shrewd operator, and he will be absolutely horrified that his name has been dragged into this
In the mid-1990s, he built Agalarov House in central Moscow, an elite residential tower. With just 34 apartments, it wasn’t quite Trump Tower, but it was one of the first luxury blocks in central Moscow.
In the 2000s he set up the Crocus complex just outside Moscow, which included luxury shops, a major concert venue, and an exhibition space, which among other events hosted an annual “Millionaire’s fair” selling luxury goods such as diamond-encrusted mobile phones to the super-rich.