Together with his Business partner, fellow Azerbaijani God Nisanov, Iliev started by building markets near metro stations in Moscow, and later turned these into shopping centres in the early 1990s. They later Diversified into building hotels in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia and have real estate totalling 14 million square feet. They own the company Kiyevskaya Ploshchad.
Nisanov and Iliev also own the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow and the Radisson SAS Slavyanskaya Hotel in Moscow. In 2005, Nisanov acquired the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow, a luxury hotel formerly known as the Ukrainian Hotel and commissioned by Joseph Stalin, for £59 million during an auction. Nisanov and Iliev closed the hotel after purchase and spent three years modernizing the structure. They reopened the hotel in April 2010 under the new brand, Radisson Royal.
In 2013, they acquired the Lotus City shopping centre in suburban Moscow.
Zarakh Iliev was born in Azerbaijan. Iliev’s family is part of a tight knit community of Mountain Jews. In 1983, when he was 17, Iliev left home to look for work in Moscow. He began working for his uncle on Lubyanka Street, but quickly became a respected trader at the Cherkizovsky Market.