Accepting the personal invitation of Princess Grace of Monaco in the mid-1960s, Alexander Moghadam continued his exceptional life journey in the Principality of Monaco and left his footprint by founding the legendary carpet store at Boulevard des Moulins.
Sitting down together in the hidden office of the Iranian-born Alexander Moghadam was a great honour for me. The story of “Moghi” – as his closest friends call him – is more than exceptional revealing how one’s life can change by capturing the right opportunities and combining it with hard work and persistence.
Alexander Moghadam is a man filled with passion, energy and positivity. As we sit down in his office, he reaches out to the top drawer of his desk and pulls out something that he values a lot, his personal treasure, a golden book.
As he lifts up the book to open it, it becomes obvious that the book holds tremendous emotional values for him. And soon he explains why.
“This is my golden book, which was personally signed by Princess Grace here in this very store,” – starts Alexander Moghadam and reaches out to some old photographs. – “This is me in the picture with Princess Grace, it was 48 years ago. I still have and safeguard the carpet we were standing on.”
As soon as I looked into his eyes I understood that this interview will be special. I found myself in a special position, looking back at a man’s legacy and life-altering journey which started way before Monaco.
Born in Iran, Alexander Moghadam started to work there at the age of 19. The year 1956 was soon after World War II when Germany started to recover its economy and the leading German Airline, Lufthansa opened its office in Iran.
At that time Alexander Moghadam was working in a hotel, where the manager of the Lufthansa happened to stay as well.
“I was very young, just 19 years old. I happened to see that people were coming to visit the secretary of the manager of Lufthansa, they were all looking for a job.
I approached the secretary and told him that if they are employing new people, I am interested in working for the airline.
He said, “Yes? Why not? Come after tomorrow for the interview.”
The next thing I remember is that they employed me at Lufthansa.”
Alexander Moghadam’s main job was to manage the crew members that flew into Iran. It was a common practice for Lufthansa to change the crew because it’s a long distance flight.
Alexander Moghadam took care of all the administrative tasks, such as the 24 hours visa for the crew and helping out with suggestions in Iran.
After a while, Lufthansa became satisfied with his performance and soon Alexander Moghadam was promoted as cargo manager for Iran and the whole Middle East.
As Alexander Moghadam gained more experience in the industry, other airlines started to approach him as well. For a brief period he took an opportunity with Alitalia before he returned back to Lufthansa to embark on his unexpected journey.
“I knew the general manager of the captain who was flying at that time the private plane of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, an aircraft used by the government for official travels and diplomatic businesses.”
At that time, flying as a diplomat was not as easy as today. In the mid 1950s, countries needed a lot of formalities. The local experience and knowledge of Alexander Moghadam was much needed. Yet, this job had much more to offer.
Germans were fascinated by Persian carpets and the captain asked Alexander Moghadam to source some interesting pieces that he could later sell in Germany. From that moment on Alexander Moghadam entered on a new journey, the carpet business.
“I remember the captain told me that if I open a carpet shop in Frankfurt, Germany then he can bring me a lot of crew members as well as other potential new clients.”
Alexander Moghadam had a highly competitive salary at Lufthansa, but he did nearly three times more on the commissions. Therefore, he decided to listen to his inner voice and leave the airline business.
By 1961, Alexander Moghadam opened his first store in Frankfurt, Germany.
“I realised during that time that I became more and more interested in Persian carpets. It is a very fascinating product, all done by hand and all unique.
All the carpets and ornaments are considered as a piece of art done by artists, knot by knot. It can sound incredible but some of our carpets need 10 years to be made.”
Alexander Moghadam’s business was booming. In the 1950s and 1960s, right after World War II, people started to gain more wealth and wanted to have a nice home.
“Germans like to have nice homes,” – laughs Alexander Moghadam. – “I was importing a lot of carpets from Iran selling them with a great profit.”
As Germans became more interested in Persian carpets, the business started to boom so much that Alexander Moghadam had five carpet stores in Germany.
“Of course, as a young man I was running day and night including Saturdays and Sundays, no holidays.”
A new level of wealth
One of the carpet showrooms of Alexander Moghadam was strategically placed at a highly visible corner at the intersection of two popular streets. One day, a wealthy German businessman, Hans Neeb and his wife arrived from Hanau, a small city located 25 km East of Frankfurt am Main.
“I remember, a big Mercedes car parked in front of the store. I did not know them so I wanted to send them away, but by the time I got up they had already entered my store.
The man immediately started to compliment my carpets. He said that “These are very nice carpets. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
I simply pointed out that I am Iranian and I know what is good when it comes to Persian carpets.”
The family was looking for carpets for their house but as they were not from Frankfurt they were not sure what would fit best. Being a true salesman, Alexander Moghadam offered his assistance to deliver a few carpets to their home so they can see them in the actual ambiance to make a decision.
“The next day I packed my car and headed to Hanau. Neeb bought a few carpets and said, “Bring me more. I need one for the bedroom, one for the corridor, and everywhere else.””
The second time Alexander Moghadam went to Neeb, he introduced him to his partner, Anton Dressler who was even wealthier than Neeb. He had a construction company at that time employing over 1,000 people.
Alexander Moghadam realised the opportunity by personally delivering the carpets to the wealthy, offering them a comfortable way to select and choose carpets in their homes.
This way a new opportunity and a new type of clientele arose and Alexander Moghadam started to make his monthly income in a single day of work.
“I remember once Mr. Dressler challenged me by saying that he bought some exceptional carpets from Iran and Kuwait. Something that I cannot compete with.
So, I called my mother who was traveling from Iran and asked her to bring along two rugs made with with gold and silver stitches.
I purchased them in Iran for the equivalent of around 1,000 Deutsche Mark each and we had to pay another 90 Deutsche Mark for customs duty.
I called Mr. Dressler telling him that I am willing to bring him some special carpets which he has never seen in his life. He was laughing and said, “Let’s see. Come over.”
I went to his house and when I opened the rug, he said, “Wow, you are right. I have never seen a rug stitched with gold.””
Understanding the value and unique wow factor of the carpets, Alexander Moghadam was prepared to ask a price of 25,000 Deutsche Mark each. That night Alexander Moghadam went home with not only a cheque, but a new long-term client.
As the Knibbs and the Dressler families were purchasing regularly for gifts to the children and important people, Alexander Moghadam decided to open a showroom in Hanau where this rich clientele was based.
This was also the place where he met with legendary Max Grundig, the founder of Grundig AG that produced a range of consumer electronics, including the Grundig Television.
“As I was meeting with more and more established people, I had the opportunity to discover their fascinating life stories. Some of them had similar stories as me, building up their wealth from nothing, just driven by an idea and their passion. The same was true for Mr. Grundig as well.
He was tortured during the war which left him with permanent damages in his leg. After this, he was hiding in a cellar for two years where his idea came to create a radio. As he did it, he decided to put his name on it and the rest is history. He became world-widely known for his electronic products.”
Dealing with Mr. Grundig was a whole new level for Alexander Moghadam. The Grunding family had two houses and he sold carpets for 800,000 Deutsche Mark for the first and further one million Deutsche Mark for the second home.
The line of personal recommendations never stopped and soon Alexander Moghadam received requests from all over Germany.
“Once I received a call from a man called Helmut Kraft. He lived 400 km away from me and he asked me whether I would be willing to bring and show him some carpets.
Despite the distance, I filled my Volkswagen combi with 25-30 carpets and decided to drive to him near Stuttgart with the hope to sell at least one or two carpets.
This was a very strange encounter because as I arrived I wanted to show him the carpets, but Mr Kraft was only asking for the total value.
I told him the price, 1,750,000 Deutsche Mark while he replied, “Let’s have lunch and by the time we finish the money will be in your bank account.”
After the lunch, I called my account manager at Commerce Bank and indeed the money was there. It was like receiving 20 million Euro today.”
Disturbed by the thought that Mr Kraft did not even look at the carpets, Alexander Moghadam was eager to discover the reason why he purchased all of his stock.
Mr Kraft had an office leasing business and he wanted to decorate these spaces for business leaders.
A special encounter with Princess Grace of Monaco
Enjoying his success, Alexander Moghadam and his wife visited the Principality of Monaco in 1976.
“I was staying with my family in the Holiday Inn (today Le Méridien Beach Plaza). One night we came down for dinner when spontaneously I saw that something exciting was happening.”
Driven by his excitement, Alexander Moghadam asked around to find out more. It was a night when Monaco’s Princely family was attending a dinner at the hotel including Princess Gace, Prince Rainier III, Princess Stephanie and Prince Albert II.
“As the Princely family were just passing next to our table, I said to myself, wow what a chance. I stood up with my wife and asked Princess Grace whether we could have a photo with her.
Funny enough that photo never happened. We had an old Polaroid camera and because my wife was so excited she could not take a photo, the camera did not work.”
However, Alexander Moghadam got something even better in exchange, a friendship for life with the Princess.
“Princess Grace was very friendly with us. She asked us “Where are you from?” I replied we are Iranian. She then charmingly said “Oh, you are Iranian. You are most welcome. What are you doing here?”
I told her that Monaco is a paradise. We came from Germany to spend the holiday.
She then asked us with genuine interest in her voice, “What do you do in Germany?”
I said, “I am in the business of Persian Carpets”.
And she replied straight-away, “Why don’t you come to Monaco? We are very close friends with His Majesty, the Shah of Iran. The Shah has invited us to Iran for the ceremony of Persepolis and we enjoyed our trip very much. We love Iran and Iranians.”
I said to her, “Your Highness, are you inviting us to come to Monaco for business? If I relocate my business to Monaco, would you give us your support?”.
To my biggest surprise she said, “Yes, no problem. You are invited by me personally”.
She gave me the contact of her private secretary, Louisette Levy-Soussan and I made a promise to Princess Grace that the next morning I will start to look for an ideal property for my carpet store in Monaco.”
After a year of work, the Moghadam Gallery was inaugurated in 1977, in the presence of Grace Kelly.
From that day on, Alexander Moghadam and his family have never left the Principality, owning signature stores as the Moghadam Gallery, the Fashion For Floors, the Eichholtz or the Work in Progress.
“Princess Grace and her kindness encouraged me. Without her I would have probably stayed in Germany. She was such a wonderful and unique person who left us way too early.”
The Moghadam Gallery
Finding the ideal location which was a minimum 200 square meter streetfront store, was not an easy task for Alexander Moghadam and it took about two months.
“I heard that there is an old, two-floor art gallery at Boulevard des Moulins. As the owner was ready to retire I took the opportunity to take over the lease. It was an instant decision, we closed the deal during the first meeting.
The previous owner needed two months to liquidate and auction the stock, but it was fine for me as I had to obtain the business permit from the Monaco Government.
It was a relatively easy process as everybody knew that I was invited by Princess Grace. I also got tremendous help and guidance from the Palace and Ms. Levy-Soussan.”
By April 1977, all the construction works were finished and the Moghadam Gallery was ready to be open. Alexander Moghadam wrote a letter to the office of Princess Grace requesting her kind presence at the opening.
“In just a few days the answer came and I got a date proposal in September for the inauguration ceremony.”
Finally, the Moghadam Gallery was officially opened in the presence of Princess Grace in September, 1977.
“It was a wonderful day. I rolled down a red carpet on the street and more than 150 people came to the inauguration.
We maintained a very good relationship with Princess Grace who time-to-time visited the showroom with her children. The Princess also bought a few small carpets for gifts.
I regret very much, just like the whole world, that she passed away in a terrible car accident.”
Alexander Moghadam kept the close relationship with the Princely family as he knew the Sovereign Prince since he was a very young man.
One of the carpets, where the Princess was standing was recently auctioned for 100,000 Euro and the proceeds benefited the Prince Albert II Monaco Foundation.
During more than five decades of its existence, the Moghadam Gallery has built up an international reputation as one of the leaders of Persian carpets with clients of well-known personalities, celebrities and royals from all around the world.
The carpet storage at 7 rue Milo has an incredible stock of over 3,000 carpets. Some of them reach the one million Euro price tag.
“For me, it is very important to maintain the service because we offer much more than just sales. Persian carpets are like artworks, they are a very great investment, therefore, it is important to keep them in good condition.
We offer a full scale of services from repairing, cleaning, underlying because the carpet sometimes moves on the moquette and much more.”
Interestingly, the Moghadam Gallery also invests into carpets, buys used ones and credits their values to the owners.
“Persian carpets are always a good investment and represent a great status symbol. For example, some carpets bought 30 years ago are valued up to six times.”
When asked what the secret philosophy behind Alexander Moghadam’s success is, he answered:
“It is personal power and honesty. As my mother always told me, you have to always be correct and honest with people, which will bring to both sides long-lasting success.”
One of the fascinating elements of this story is the willingness to change and risk everything when Alexander Mogdaham gave up on a successful business in Germany, owning five carpet stores and deciding to have a fresh start in Monaco.
Change is one of the most feared things in many people’s lives. Yet, Alexander Mogdaham looks back at it as a great decision, capturing the moment when the opportunity presented itself.
“The decision to move to Monaco was a jackpot. I understood it immediately because I knew Monaco.
Everybody from my colleagues, friends and home country family said that Monaco is a small city and country. I said, let me do it. I know what I am doing.
I came to Monaco 48 years ago. I do not regret a day of it. We have the security, we have the business and most importantly, my family appreciates what we have built up. What else do you need in life?”
Care for others
Very few people know that beside his legacy defining a Persian carpet empire, Alexander Moghadam deeply cares for social causes and he has taken care of the diplomatic affairs of Nepal since 2013. But one would ask why Nepal and not Iran.
“My generation of Iranians are from another period of Iran, a modern country with the Shah of Iran, where there was liberty for everyone.
The current, new regime of Islamic Republic limits freedom and possibilities. That’s why I do not want to be involved in politics with my home country.”
When Nepal was looking for a Honorary Council of Nepal in Monaco, the Nepalese government approached the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.
“The Palace contacted me whether I would consider to take this position. I went to Paris for an interview.”
In 2015, Alexander Moghadam was upgraded as a General Council of Nepal, after he successfully raised close to half a million Euro to support the victims of the earthquake in Nepal.
“I personally went to Nepal and built homes for homeless people and all the families whose homes were damaged. We also provided food and medicines. It is a pleasure to help people in need.
Nepal is not like Monaco, even a small amount of 50,000 Euro is considered a lot of money and we can do many great things with it there. We built two schools for 830 children and a four-floor house to accommodate about 25 orphans.”
Alexander Moghadam came from a poor family and he remained true to his inner values. This is why he understands people from all levels of society. He also planted the idea to HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to open the Monaco Honorary Consulate in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
The story of Alexander Moghadam is inspiring not only as a success story but also as a person staying true to his values and beliefs.