Emin Agalarov, the man identified as having arranged a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, is a Russian pop star and businessman who happens to be the son of a Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin.
“Music is creative and business can be creative,” Agalarov told the Chicago Tribune in an interview in May. “In music, you build something. You think of an idea, you sit down at the piano and write the lyrics. Then you arrange it, master it, and it becomes a whole piece of finished work. The same happens when you build a building or open a restaurant or store. First you have the idea in your head. Then you find the components to actually put it together. If you do it right, it works. Music can bring you financial success. So can business.”
Agalarov, 37, was educated in Switzerland and the U.S., where, according to his company’s website, he graduated from Marymount Manhattan College “at the top of his class, delivering a thesis on ‘Business Management in the Field of Finance.’” He then joined the family business, the Crocus Group, which was established by his father Aras Agalarov. The senior Agalarov is one of Russia’s richest men; Putin awarded him the Order of Honor, one of the country’s top civilian awards, in 2013. Aras Agalarov is often called the “Donald Trump of Russia.”
The younger Agalarov is listed as executive vice president of the Crocus Group, in charge of its retail-entertainment complexes, restaurants, as well as a Caspian resort in Azerbaijan, the former Soviet republic. Until 2015, Agalarov was married to Leila Aliyeva, the daughter of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.
Donald Trump’s links to the Agalarovs date to the Miss Universe contest in Moscow in 2013, which the father and son had wanted to bring to the Russian capital. Trump, who owned the contest at the time, had long pursued the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow, though that deal never happened; Trump also had dealings in Azerbaijan, which a story in the New Yorker described as his “worst” ever—though Agalarov says he played no role in that deal.
Still, Agalarov has claimed close ties with Trump. The real-estate mogul appeared in a music video for Agalarov, whose website describes him as “an accomplished entertainer … [whose] songs are played in heavy rotation on Russian and international radio stations alike, and he performs concerts all over the world.” One of those concerts took place at a Trump golf course, according to Forbes, and another at the Miss Universe contest. Trump also wished Agalarov a happy 35th birthday, calling him a “winner” and a “champ.” The feeling is apparently mutual. In the interview with the Chicago Tribune, Agalarov called Trump “a super-successful businessman.”
“His main advantage over other world leaders that sometimes come to power is that he actually ran a huge corporation,” he said. “He built a big business over the years and guided thousands of people towards certain goals. A lot of the politicians that come to power have never even managed a hundred people. That is his main advantage. He’s very good at it.”
In March, Forbes reported that Agalarov claimed to have been in touch with the Trump family since last November’s election. He said he exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. in January and that the president sent him a handwritten note after the Agalarovs congratulated him on his election victory. The magazine added:
Agalarov knows that maintaining that good favor will require continued contact with Trump's inner circle. To that end, he says he exchanged messages with Donald Jr. around the time of the inauguration, but was told no deals could be pursued until the company’s leadership structure had further settled into place.
And Agalarov has testified to the president’s loyalty. “Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Agalarov told Forbes. The president has not yet commented on the meeting between his son and the Russian lawyer; nor has he said anything about the Agalarovs, his Russian friends.