22 January 2015
Vladislav Doronin is Russia’s answer to Donald Trump. When the property magnate is not on a yacht with Leonardo DiCaprio, he’s busy dating the world’s most beautiful women. But as a boss of Aman, the hotel group of choice for the super-rich, with properties as far-flung as the Indonesian jungle and the Utah desert, he’s found himself in hot water. He tells Simon Mills how he likes to mix pleasure with business.
The extraordinary dacha that billionaire Russian property developer Doronin and his architect, Zaha Hadid, have built is rather different. With its sci-fi maritime lines and elevated master bedroom it looks, in turn, like Darth Vader’s country hideout or a retirement home for George Jetson. ‘I always wanted to build something with Zaha,’ Doronin tells me. ‘For me Zaha is a great architect, not just of this century but of the next century, too. She has vision. And like me, she loves Malevich.
‘I showed her photographs of the land and the trees. I said: “When I wake up, I don’t want to see any neighbours, nothing.” “Well, you’ve got to go high,” she said. “The trees are 30 metres so you have to go above the trees.” “No problem,” I said. In the restaurant she made a drawing. And that’s how we started.’ Artist Julian Schnabel and American Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley have already been weekend guests. Naomi Campbell, too, no doubt, as she and Doronin were an item for five years until 2013 when he began dating Chinese model Luo Zilin, a protégée of Campbell’s on the US reality TV model-search show The Face. ‘People are speechless, completely paralysed when they arrive at the house,’ says Doronin proudly.
Doronin returned to Russia in the early 1990s, just as the country was beginning to boom. Sensing opportunity, he founded the Capital Group in 1993, now one of Russia’s most successful property development firms, starting off with a new Russian HQ for IBM. Over the next 20 years he amassed an estimated £1.6bn fortune in Moscow real estate. Capital Group’s portfolio now runs to more than 70 major large-scale projects — 63 successfully accomplished and eight under construction — totalling more than 70m sq ft. Forbes magazine has described him as the ‘businessman who changed Moscow for the better’. World Finance magazine ranks him among the most powerful businessmen in the world. The British press calls him the ‘Russian Donald Trump’.
Doronin represents what he calls ‘a new generation of rich Russians’ who ‘don’t want to be seen, or seen to be aggressive… want to be low-profile… who have learned a lot and now want to enjoy their lives’. The image of the wealthy, brash novi ruski throwing his weight and his money and his big yacht around Europe is, Doronin thinks, largely a media invention, a misunderstanding. ‘Personally, I don’t see that. Russians want to do everything fast, they want to do it today. Our background is we come from poor families. We get a good education but we have no money. So we work hard; 16 hours a day sometimes. We understand making money very well.’ He is, he tells me, ‘a very private man’, someone who shuns publicity, never talks to the press (indeed, a thorough Google search reveals not a single interview). So, why is he talking to me?
Source: Evening Standard Magazine