Aras Agalarov and his pop singer son Emin have known the Trumps for years. Now the Donald Jr email scandal has put them in an unwanted spotlight
Hes a billionaire construction magnate who likes shiny and expensive things and built a luxury tower block adorned with his own name: its 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 Agalarovs publicist Rob Goldstone to Trump Jr, suggest Aras Agalarov had been given high level and sensitive information from Russias top prosecutor, that he wanted to pass on to the Trump campaign as part of Russia and its governments support for Mr Trump.
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 Russias 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.
In the mid-1990s, he built Agalarov House in central Moscow, an elite residential tower. With just 34 apartments, it wasnt quite Trump Tower, but it was one of the first luxury blocks in central Moscow.
Emin and his sister were educated in the US, but Emin returned to help his father with the business. The Agalarovs had all the trappings of the Russian oligarch class: Aras travels in a Gulfstream private jet that he told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda he paid $44m for.
The Agalarovs bought the Moscow franchise for Robert de Niros Nobu restaurant chain, opening a branch in the centre of the capital in 2009. The upmarket Japanese restaurant, done out in sleek wood, became a hub for the Agalarovs. If Aras had business to do, he would conduct his talks in a private room. When Emin came in with models or socialites, he would sit at a table in the centre of the restaurant.