A tycoon with holdings in the metals and fertilisers industries, Suleiman Kerimov has seamlessly navigated the line between business and politics, while still managing to remain largely in the shadows.

Born in Derbent, 130 kilometres along the coast from where he is trying to revive Anzhi in Makhachkala, the capital of the north Caucasus republic of Dagestan, Mr Kerimov served in the Strategic Missile Forces and studied at Dagestan State University before taking his first job as an accountant at a local television factory.

After rising up to run the business himself in the 1990s, Mr Kerimov moved to Moscow to be the head of Soyuz-Finans, a broker.

He moved to Nafta-Moskva, an investment group, which he has since turned into his personal holding for assets in real estate and mining and investments in blue-chip Russian stocks, in particular state-owned groups such as Gazprom and Sberbank.

What is perhaps most intriguing about Mr Kerimov are his own ties to the state.

Formerly a Duma deputy for the nationalist Liberal Democratic party, Mr Kerimov became a member of the Kremlin’s ruling party, United Russia, in 2007. He represents Dagestan on the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

His political connections can be seen in the recent acquisition – and merger – of Russia’s two largest potash producers, Uralkali and Silvinit, a deal probably blessed, or encouraged, by the Kremlin in a bid to create a Russian fertiliser champion.

Yet Mr Kerimov has managed to maintain a low profile, the one exception being a 2006 car accident in Nice, France, which saw the businessman drive his Ferrari off the road, causing it to burst into flames. He suffered serious burns.

While the tycoon has indulged in yachts and private jets, friends say they have no doubt about the seriousness of his commitment to Anzhi.

“It is his reputation on the line,” says German Tkachenko, Anzhi’s agent and a long-time associate of Mr Kerimov.

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