- Zarakh Iliev, along with partner God Nisanov, is actively involved in developing trade centers, hotels, and residential properties in Moscow.
- The duo, originally from Azerbaijan, collectively owns an impressive portfolio of around 14 million square feet of real estate in Moscow.
- Their notable projects include the creation of a vast 225-acre wholesale distribution center named Food City in Moscow, as well as the establishment of multiple shopping centers on the city’s outskirts.
- Iliev holds a co-ownership stake in the prestigious 5-star Moscow Royal Radisson hotel, which gained prominence as FIFA’s headquarters during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
- Despite his successes, Iliev faced sanctions from the U.K. in September 2022, a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Iliev’s enduring impact on Moscow’s real estate landscape underscores his significant influence in the industry.
Zarakh Iliev, hailing from a family of Azerbaijani shoemakers, has emerged as a prominent figure in the Russian commercial real estate landscape, boasting an estimated net worth of five billion dollars. Recognized as one of the “Russian Real Estate Kings” by Forbes in 2017, Iliev, along with his partner God Nisanov, co-owns the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies—an influential player in Russia’s private sector with a vast real estate portfolio spanning 14 million square feet.
Not only a co-owner but also a strategic leader, Iliev holds the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors at both JSC Square of Europe and Vysotka LLC, showcasing his multifaceted involvement in the business.
Early Life and Background
Zarakh Iliev, born in Azerbaijan in 1966, learned the shoemaking trade from his father. However, even at a young age, Iliev charted his own course. He entered the business world by crafting and selling hats in the Quba market before relocating to Moscow to pursue a career in retail.
In 1993, Zarakh Iliev joined forces with his friend, God Nisanov, marking the beginning of a fruitful partnership. They initially focused on developing retail markets near metro stations in Moscow. Their success paved the way for the acquisition of select shopping centers, and from there, they expanded their portfolio to include hotels, restaurants, and gastronomic centers. Noteworthy additions to their real estate holdings include the Radisson Royal Ukraine Hotel, the Radisson SAS Slavyanskaya Hotel, and the Evropeyskiy Shopping Center. The jointly-owned Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies consistently ranks in the top 100 of Forbes’s list of Russia’s 200 largest private companies.
This dynamic duo’s entrepreneurial journey showcases a progression from humble market ventures to prominent positions in Russia’s real estate landscape.
The son of a shoemaker, Iliev helped make shoes as a child.
Zarakh Iliev’s Partnership in 1993 with God Niskov
Formation of Partnership in 1993
In 1993, Zarakh Iliev and God Nisanov forged a partnership, marking the inception of their prosperous collaboration in the commercial real estate sector. Together, they founded the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, now a prominent player in the Russian commercial real estate landscape. The company, under its joint leadership, has spearheaded various large-scale real estate ventures, encompassing shopping malls, hotels, agricultural centers, urban restoration projects, and restaurants.
This dynamic partnership has played a pivotal role in shaping significant infrastructure and commercial properties in Russia, solidifying Zarakh Iliev and Nisanov as influential figures in the industry. Their strategic alliance has been a driving force behind the acquisition and development of noteworthy projects, contributing to the growth and success of the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies.
Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies
Overview of the companies
The Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, co-owned by God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev, stands out as a prominent player in the Russian commercial real estate market, earning recognition from Forbes. Renowned for its diverse asset portfolio, including the Food City shopping center and the Evropeysky Mall, the company boasts an annual rental income of $1.61 million and employs over 26,000 professionals. Kievskaya Ploshchad is dedicated to pioneering exclusive and innovative property projects that craft comfortable and visually appealing environments for work, living, travel, and relaxation.
Since its establishment in 1992, Kievskaya Ploshchad has successfully completed and acquired more than 3.75 million square meters of commercial real estate projects, solidifying its pivotal role in the industry. The company’s mission centers on establishing quality standards for urban environments and enhancing contemporary living conditions.
Beyond its real estate ventures, Kievskaya Ploshchad has actively engaged in socio-cultural projects, reinforcing its impact in the real estate sector and establishing itself as a leading representative of the Russian business community. Both God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev, originally hailing from Azerbaijan, have been recognized as highly successful businessmen and visionaries in the Russian commercial real estate sector since 2012.
Forbes Recognition: “Russian Real Estate Kings
Forbes has recently named the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, co-owned by God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev, as the top performer in the 2020 “Real Estate Kings of Russia” list. With over $1.2 billion in lease earnings, the corporation has firmly secured its place at the pinnacle of the rankings. This recognition not only validates the remarkable success of the company but also underscores its profound impact on the Russian commercial real estate market.
Samvel Karapetyan, a Russian-Armenian businessman, led the Tashir Group, which secured the second spot on the list with an impressive $585 million in lease income. This acknowledgment serves to spotlight the noteworthy accomplishments of these companies within the real estate sector and their substantial contributions to the industry.
Expansion into Shopping Centers, Hotels, and More
Following their initial success, Iliev and Nisanov broadened their portfolio to encompass diverse ventures, including hotels, restaurants, and gastronomic centers. Among their significant real estate acquisitions are the Radisson Royal Ukraine Hotel, the Radisson SAS Slavyanskaya Hotel, and the Evropeyskiy Shopping Center. Iliev and Nisanov co-own the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, which has consistently placed among the top 100 of Forbes’ illustrious list of the 200 largest private companies in Russia.
Among the initial shopping centers acquired by the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies was the Elektronnyy Ray Shopping Center, purchased in 1998. Swiftly transforming into Moscow’s premier destination for household appliances and electronics, it marked a significant milestone.
Following the success of Elektronnyy Ray, the company expanded its portfolio with the opening of the Panorama shopping center in 2002 and the acquisition of the Grand Furniture Mall in 2004. The Grand boasts stores offering furniture from both domestic and international manufacturers, along with hosting master classes, exhibitions, and lectures by renowned designers. Simultaneously, in 2004, the company inaugurated the Moscow Automobile Shopping Center, emerging as a prominent hub for both new and used cars.
In 2006, Kievskaya Ploshchad showcased its vision with the unveiling of the Evropeyskiy Shopping Center. Featuring over 500 shops, a movie theater, a nightclub, an ice rink, and a charming outdoor fountain with water streams reaching heights of 22 meters, it became a multifaceted and vibrant space.
Elektronnyy Ray Shopping Center (1998)
The Elektronnyy Ray shopping center, inaugurated in 1998, swiftly emerged as a prime spot for retail electronics in Moscow. It marked a pivotal moment for the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, co-helmed by Zarakh Iliev and God Nisanov as one of their initial shopping center ventures. The success of Elektronnyy Ray set the stage for the company’s notable entry into the commercial real estate market. Alongside Elektronnyy Ray, the company achieved success with diverse projects, including acquiring the TK Grand furniture mall and the Moskva shopping center, recognized as Europe’s largest hub for new and used car sales.
Furthermore, the company’s expansion encompasses notable achievements, such as the establishment of the Evropeyskiy shopping center. Boasting over 500 shops, a movie theater, a nightclub, an ice rink, and a captivating musical fountain with water jets reaching a height of 22 meters, Evropeyskiy stands as a testament to the company’s commitment to creating versatile and vibrant commercial spaces. This strategic expansion reflects their dedication to meeting diverse consumer needs and preferences.
In 2005, Iliev expanded the company’s reach by acquiring Hotel Ukraina. After five years of extensive renovation, the hotel was reintroduced in 2010 as the Radisson Royal. Beyond its status as a luxury hotel, the Radisson Royal showcases a remarkable collection of Soviet-era paintings adorning its walls.
Adding to the Radisson portfolio, the company initiated the Radisson Royal Fleet of Yachts in 2009. This fleet, comprising 20 boats, including 10 icebreakers, caters to tourists desiring a sail along the Moscow River.
In 2012, the company acquired another Radisson brand, the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel, now a modern business center hosting numerous international conferences. The same year witnessed the unveiling of the Vorobyevsky Business Center, following a comprehensive overhaul and reconstruction.
Fast-forward to 2016, and the company made a historic acquisition on Moscow’s New Arbat Avenue—a distinctive building known as “The Book” due to its shape. Plans are currently in progress to convert it into a hotel and office space. Simultaneously, the company embarked on the construction of an expansive hotel complex on Varvarka Street in Moscow. This development, nestled within a UNESCO-protected area, incorporates commercial homes from the 20th century, meticulously restored according to original blueprints. The upcoming hotel, slated for completion in 2021/2022, will proudly join the esteemed Raffles brand, offering a blend of hotel rooms and apartments.
Diversification Beyond Real Estate
Agricultural clusters, Restaurants, and Food markets
In 2014, Zarakh Iliev and Nisanov embarked on a groundbreaking project called Food City, marking Russia’s inaugural agricultural cluster spread over 120 hectares. This innovative endeavor encompasses a vast mall stretching across 340,000 square meters, ten cross-docks for the sale of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, ample parking for both cars and trucks and a customs terminal ensuring seamless facility operations. Plans for Food City 2 at an alternative location are currently in progress.
In 2017, Kievskaya Ploshchad unveiled a series of restaurants. Notably, the sophisticated Voskhod restaurant in Zaryadye Park boasts a roof doubling as a pedestrian walkway. Within the same park, a gastronomic center and a food market showcasing traditional Russian dishes were established. Additionally, the acquisition of Velozavodsky Market, subjected to extensive reconstruction, has transformed it into one of Moscow’s premier fresh food markets.
A recent milestone for the company is the inauguration of Europe’s largest gastronomic quarter at the historic Miussky Depot. This expansive development comprises cafes, restaurants, a farmer’s market, a playground, and souvenir shops, enhancing the cultural and culinary landscape.
In 2015, the company inaugurated the South Gate Bus Station, serving as a transportation hub with modern, user-friendly buses connecting to over 30 destinations. By 2017, substantial reconstruction efforts commenced at the Schelkovskogo Bus Station, transforming it into a multifaceted hub featuring not just buses but also restaurants, a movie theater, stores, and additional amenities. Furthermore, in 2019, the company successfully secured an open tender for TPU Nagatinskaya, a vast 228,000-square-meter site slated for development into a comprehensive transportation hub.
Cultural Heritage Work
From 2016 to 2019, the company restored the Lesnoy architectural ensemble, which is a cultural heritage site. Concurrently, it also undertook the restoration of the Miussky Depot.
In 2015, Kievskaya Ploshchad unveiled the Moskvarium, Europe’s largest inland aquarium dedicated to marine biology and oceanography. Housing 80 aquariums and showcasing a diverse collection of 350 fish, mollusks, and arthropods from across the globe, the Moskvarium stands as a remarkable achievement. Subsequently, in 2017, the company acquired the Olympic Stadium, marking a significant milestone. The stadium is poised for extensive redevelopment, set to host various sports arenas, a planetarium, a concert hall, a movie theater, restaurants, and more.
Zarakh Iliev, a staunch supporter of cultural preservation, has actively contributed to various initiatives aimed at safeguarding traditional practices. One notable project involved Zarakh Iliev providing financial support for the construction of a groundbreaking museum dedicated to the traditions, history, and culture of Azerbaijani Mountain Jews. This museum, the first of its kind globally, showcases a unique exhibit featuring the legendary “slashed book.” According to folklore, this Torah scroll played a pivotal role in saving lives when a military leader attempted to harm a rabbi. Astonishingly, the leader’s knife became lodged in the sacred book, deterring him and ensuring the safety of the citizens of Sloboda.
In addition to his commitment to cultural preservation, Zarakh Iliev has played a significant role in various urban restoration projects throughout Russia. These projects encompass extensive renovations of the Miussky Tram Depot and the meticulous restoration of the Lesnoy Architectural Ensemble, a revered cultural heritage site.
Zarakh Iliev’s multifaceted involvement in cultural and urban initiatives underscores his dedication to preserving history and enriching the cultural fabric of the regions he influences.
Awards and Recognition
In 2015, Zarakh Binsionovich Iliev received the Fiddler on the Roof Award from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. He also received an Honorary Builder of Russia badge.
Zarakh Iliev, a thriving entrepreneur hailing from Azerbaijan, has left an indelible mark on the Russian real estate and business scene. His entrepreneurial journey began in his formative years and culminated in the establishment of the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies alongside his business partner, God Nisanov, in the early 1990s. This partnership marked the initiation of their prosperous venture into the commercial real estate sector, encompassing the acquisition and development of a diverse array of assets, including shopping centers, hotels, agricultural facilities, urban restoration projects, and restaurants.
Iliev’s shrewd investments and strategic business acumen have propelled his wealth to an estimated net worth of approximately $5 billion, solidifying his status as one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals. Kievskaya Ploshchad, under Iliev’s leadership, has earned recognition as one of Forbes’ top 100 private Russian companies. The company’s success has established Zarakh Iliev as a prominent figure in the Russian commercial real estate market.
Beyond his business ventures, Zarakh Iliev is renowned for his involvement in cultural initiatives and urban restoration projects, showcasing his dedication to preserving Jewish culture and contributing to the creation of vibrant and aesthetically pleasing environments for people to work, live, travel, and unwind. However, it is noteworthy that in September 2022, Zarakh Iliev faced U.K. sanctions in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.