The journey of Javad Marandi, from a child forced to flee revolutionary Iran with his parents to becoming one of the UK’s leading businessmen, is nothing short of remarkable.
While it may not be a classic rags-to-riches tale, his story encapsulates resilience, determination, and an unwavering commitment to making a positive impact.
Today, he stands as one half of what the Evening Standard recently hailed as “the most connected couple in London”, firmly establishing his position among the elite of British public life.
Recent allegations, that Marandi vehemently denies, have perhaps distracted from his work, but Marandi’s story tells another tale.
Who is Marandi and how did he become one of the UK’s leading businessmen and philanthropists?
From Prosperity to Refugee
Born in Tehran, the capital of Iran, in 1968, Marandi’s early life was upended by the Iranian revolution.
His father was a successful property developer and his mother a teacher, and his family experienced a prosperous era in the Iranian capital fuelled by rising oil prices. At that time, Iran was regarded as a stable presence amidst the volatility prevalent in the region, thanks to its long history and constitutional monarchy.
This vision was soon revealed to be a mirage as the revolution removed the Shah from power, to be replaced by a hard-line theocratic successor. Despite not being connected to the previous regime, Marandi’s father was regarded with suspicion by the revolutionary authorities so the family decided to leave the country. Their destination was London, where they owned a small Notting Hill flat.
While Javad, his mother, and sister were able to leave in 1979, his father was forced to remain in Iran for an additional two years. His exit visa was delayed, and the family’s assets were seized.
Arriving in a foreign country, Javad Marandi immersed himself in pop culture to teach himself English.
He often quips, “I can literally recite the words to every song by The Police, even the obscure ones!”
A Successful Entrepreneur
Through hard work and determination, Marandi secured a place at Cardiff University to study electrical and electronic engineering. He later became a qualified chartered accountant at Coopers & Lybrand.
Marandi’s career truly took off when he joined Coca-Cola, where he played pivotal roles in expanding the company’s presence in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Building on this success, he ventured into entrepreneurship, establishing distribution and outdoor advertising companies in Azerbaijan.
A game-changing joint venture with Motorola in the mobile communication industry further propelled his journey. However, it was his transformative work in establishing the McDonald’s franchise in Azerbaijan that truly showcased his ability to turn around struggling operations, creating a network of 19 thriving locations across the country.
Interestingly, it was in Azerbaijan that Marandi’s path intersected with Narmina, the daughter of Ali Alizadeh, an oncologist. Azerbaijan held significance for Marandi, as it was where his own grandfather had fled following the Red Army invasion of 1920.
In 2010, with a growing family, Javad and Narmina Marandi made the decision to return to the UK, seeking to be closer to their extended family.
Tackling Disadvantage and Opening up Opportunities
Since their move to the UK, Javad and Narmina Marandi have carved a prominent place for themselves as philanthropists.
In 2017, they laid the groundwork for the Marandi Foundation, driven by a mission to provide crucial opportunities for underprivileged young people and communities. Training, education, and vital mental health support services lie at the heart of their efforts, with the foundation serving as a beacon of hope, actively addressing societal challenges, and empowering those in need.
The Marandi Foundation is a core funder for The Royal Foundation, an organisation founded by the Prince and Princess of Wales. In addition to their involvement with The Royal Foundation, the Marandi Foundation has made significant contributions to various other projects. One notable example is the provision of bursaries for talented individuals to St Paul’s School, one of London’s leading educational institutions.
Marandi has also played a key role in developing services at Centrepoint where he heads up the Growth Board. He has been pivotal in developing the Independent Living Programme that looks to combine employment opportunities with stable accommodation for young people aged 16-25 in London and Manchester. Should the scheme prove successful, it’s hoped it can be rolled out across the country and among all age groups.
Drawing from his own personal journey in overcoming adversity and difficult circumstances, he is dedicated to ensuring that young people are afforded opportunities to develop their talents and succeed, regardless of how their lives have started.