Dubai’s Jumeirah Islands Welcomes A New Resident: Telegram’s Billionaire Founder
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Telegram CEO and founder Pavel Durov is renting a new pad in the emirate’s ritzy neighborhood.
Pavel Durov, founder and CEO of encrypted messaging app Telegram, has splashed out on a new home in one of Dubai’s ritziest neighborhoods, according to several sources familiar with the matter who spoke with Forbes.
The billionaire, who was born and raised in Russia (and is now a citizen of France, the United Arab Emirates and St. Kitts and Nevis), has moved to a luxury five-bedroom villa on a 15,000-square-foot property in Jumeirah Islands, a luxurious community of interconnected islands built atop an artificial salt water lake, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak openly.
Durov is renting, rather than buying, the new home. The billionaire is shelling out about $1 million on annual rent–a bit more than $83,300 a month–making it one of Jumeirah Islands’ priciest ever rental deals, according to individuals familiar with the deal.
Built in the early 2000s by state-owned developer Nakheel Properties, the Jumeirah Islands community is less famous than the palm tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah (where Durov has also spent time), though no less opulent. The community consists of 46 individual circular “clusters,” each home to approximately 16 villas, all outfitted with their own private gardens and pools. The neighborhood includes its own private clubhouse featuring two restaurants, a private gym, a salon and a barbershop.
Since moving to Dubai in 2017, Durov has resided in various rental properties located nearby Telegram’s headquarters in Dubai Media City (a tax-free commercial zone), a spokesperson for Durov told Forbes via Telegram. Durov declined to comment for this article.
Luxury Property LLC, a Dubai-based brokerage, brokered Durov’s Jumeirah Islands deal, according to sources. The company declined to comment.
Durov, 38, is one of Dubai’s wealthiest residents. He boasts an estimated $11.5 billion fortune from his controlling stake in Telegram, the pro-privacy messaging app which says it has over 800 million users. Durov is currently the 150th wealthiest person in the world, per Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires list.
Dubai, which has no income tax nor capital gains taxes, has emerged as a hotspot for international business people. Changpeng Zhao, the founder of crypto exchange Binance, made Dubai home for himself and his crypto firm after being forced out of various jurisdictions for skirting local regulations. Vinod Adani, the billionaire Adani Group dealmaker, also owns homes in Dubai, including a luxe pad in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Dubai is home to several Russian billionaire tycoons, including fertilizer tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev (who owns a $29.5 million property on Palm Jumeirah) as well as Albert Avdolyan, who made his fortune in Siberian coal mining and gas companies, and Andrei Molchanov, a construction materials magnate. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, scores of wealthy Russians began buying second homes in Dubai and establishing permanent residence there, Forbes reported last year.
Durov set up shop in Dubai after a period of nomadic travels, following his emigration from Russia in 2014. Once dubbed the Russian Mark Zuckerberg, Durov, now 38, founded the social media company VKontakte after graduating from St. Petersburg University in 2006. The Russian firm grew to over 100 million users with Durov at the helm.
In 2014, Durov sold his stake in VKontakte and left Russia after resisting efforts by Vladimir Putin’s government to interfere with the company and access user data. “I’m out of Russia and have no plans to go back,” Durov told TechCrunch in April 2014. “Unfortunately, the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment.”
After a few years of flitting between countries while building Telegram, Durov settled down in Dubai in 2017. The United Arab Emirates’ generous tax policy helped seal the deal.
“A lot of people in the western world don’t realize how much taxes limit their options,” Durov told Bloomberg in 2017. “You can end up paying almost half your income in taxes, which basically means you’re working for the government for 180 days a year. I think I can find better ways to use the money I make for the benefit of society.”
This story was updated to include the fact that Durov is also a citizen of the U.A.E.
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