Aras Agalarov is a Russian billionaire who made a fortune in real estate and is sometimes called the Donald Trump of Russia.
He also has a friendship with Trump that stems in part from Agalarov’s role in bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. Agalarov and his son, Emin, have emerged as critical and colorful figures in the controversial meeting that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
Trump Jr. has said he was told the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, would produce incriminating information against Hillary Clinton, but none was ultimately offered. The friendship between Aras Agalarov and Trump goes back years, but Aras Agalarov has now called his supposed role in the meeting “some kind of fiction,” adding, “I do not know who is making this up. What does this have to do with Hillary Clinton? I don’t know.”
Agalarov made his fortune through real estate and trade fairs as the old Soviet Union crumbled.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aras Agalarov Has a Net Worth of Almost $2 Billion & Has Been Dubbed the ‘Donald Trump of Moscow’
Aras Agalarov has a net worth of $1.92 billion, according to Forbes, which rates him as a self-made entrepreneur who primarily made his fortune in real estate.
According to the site Richest Russian, Aras Agalarov was born in Baku, the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, in 1955 and “graduated from the Azerbaijan Polytechnic Institute in 1977 with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts/Science. Aras worked at a research institute in Baku until 1983, before serving on the Baku City Council for Trade Unions until 1987.”
Aras’ career soon morphed into trade fairs and shopping malls.
“Aras began his career in the technology industry, but saw greater business potential in trade fairs. In 1989 he established development firm Crocus, which became one of the country’s largest trade-fair operators. His holdings have since expanded into an array of luxe buildings and shopping malls, including the expansive Crocus City Mall in Moscow,” reported Forbes.
Agalarov runs the Crocus Group, a real estate development firm. The company owns the largest retail-entertainment complex in Russia, called “Vegas.”
The oligarch also owns $14 million in Miami, Florida real estate, according to the Miami New Times.
“The family rented out Versace’s former mansion on Ocean Drive in 2014 to throw a bash that celebrated the birthday of Agalarov’s daughter-in-law Irina Agalarova and New Year’s Eve,” the newspaper reported, adding that photos show that Rob Goldstone, the music producer who was the link between the Agalarovs and Trump Jr., was there.
2. Agalarov’s Son, Emin, Is a Russian Pop Star Who Wanted Donald Trump Jr. to Meet the Russian Lawyer
Both Aras and his son, Emin, who is a Russian pop star, are mentioned in Donald Trump Jr.’s emails to Goldstone, a music producer who was the go-between arranging a meeting with the lawyer. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the now controversial meeting.
In the emails, Goldstone wrote that he was arranging the meeting for his client, Emin Agalarov. Aras was also involved.
On June 3, in a key exchange, Goldstone wrote:
Good morning. Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin. What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
Trump Jr. responded that, if the information was correct, “I love it.”
The Trump Jr. emails reveal that Goldstone, the music producer setting up the meeting, told Trump Jr. before it happened that Natalia Veselnitskaya was a “Russian government attorney.” They also show that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign manager Paul Manafort received an email forward with the subject line “Russia-Clinton-Private and Confidential” before the meeting. Trump Jr. had previously said he did not tell Kushner and Manafort “anything of substance” before it.
3. Agalarov Helped Bring the Miss Universe Pageant to Russia & Got His Start in Business Selling Bootlegged Videos
The crumbling of the old Soviet Union and the emergence of entrepreneurship there gave Aras Agalarov his start.
Agalarov is an “Azerbaijani-Russian property developer who got his start in the late Soviet years by selling bootleg copies of American hit movies on videocassette,” The Washington Post reported.
The strongest link between Trump and the oligarch was their mutual desire to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
According to The Washington Post, “Trump partnered with the father-and-son developers to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, where the duo promised to introduce Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” However, the meeting didn’t occur, the Post reported, although the pageant did.
It cost the Agalarovs $20 million to bring the pageant to Moscow.
Trump did agree to appear in an Emin Agalarov music video that was sort of a beauty pageant fantasy video.
Emin told The Huffington Post that, despite their wealth, his parents made him earn his own money. The family relocated to New Jersey when Emin was 11-years-old, according to the news site. According to The Huffington Post, he owns real estate across Russia, though, including the Russian version of the Mall of America.
“We had to earn our own money. My first job in the United States was working in the electronics department in Kmart. My second job was coat handling in a Turkish restaurant. Then I worked at a gas station. I’m not saying I had to get those jobs because I was starving, but I had to get those jobs because I didn’t have any pocket money. I had to go and work for that. My parents showed me that anything was possible if you worked for it,” he said to The Huffington Post.
You can read more about Emin here:
4. Agalarov Has Ties to Putin & Expressed Support for Trump
In April 2016, Aras and Emin Agalarov both told The Washington Post “that they wanted Trump to be elected.” Emim Agalarov also told the Post of Trump that “this could be an amazing breakthrough if he becomes president and actually becomes friends with Putin.”
According to The New York Times, “The elder Agalarov boasts close ties to Mr. Putin: his company has won several large state building contracts, and Mr. Putin awarded him the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation.”
As the friendship between Agalarov and Trump blossomed, there was talk, that never came to fruition, of bringing a Trump tower to Moscow.
Mother Jones notes that the Donald Trump Jr. email mention of Agalarov establishes that he was “in a meeting with Yury Chaika, the prosecutor general of Russia, who had been in the post since 2006. A few weeks earlier, Putin had recommended that Chaika serve another five-year term.”
5. Agalarov Is Married With Two Children
Aras Agalarov is married to Irina Aragalova, has two children, and lives in Moscow. Irina Aragalova wished Donald Trump congratulations on Instagram when he won the presidency.
Goldstone makes an appearance in one April 2016 photo.
Irina was born in Azerbaijan. She was listed as a 2013 Miss Universe pageant judge, and her bio for the pageant says that, “for more than two decades, Irina Agalarova has divided her time between her native Moscow and her home in the United States.”
His son married the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan, although the couple is now divorced.