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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's Never Too Late to Start Up in Real Estate

MTCox served as a lieutenant colonel in the British army.
At an age when many people are thinking of slowing down, Englishman Geoffrey Cox is working hard to make his young business grow.

In early July, Cox celebrated both the first anniversary of his real estate company, Astera, and his 70th birthday. "I don't want to stop now. I'm having too much fun," he said.

Cox is a co-founder of the British Business Club in Moscow and a founding member of the European Business Club, where he is now first deputy chairman.

"He is a person who delivers what he says," EBC managing director Irene Commeau said. "He has a sense of honor. That's one of the reasons why he does well."

He already had worked in three professions -- military, journalism and academia -- before entering real estate in his 60s.

Cox retired from the British army in 1983 after serving 33 years and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also was a member of the prestigious parachute regiment and the special air service, or SAS.

He then moved on to journalism, editing the English-language edition of the Paris-based magazine Defense and Armaments International. Cox retired in 1992, when the arms industry bottomed out after the end of the Cold War.

During his time in Paris, he was a professor at the Institute of Political Studies, but Cox was told to retire after turning 60. "I thought university professors lived forever," he said wistfully.

Cox was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to former servicemen while living in Paris.

He entered Russian business in 1993, helping a friend's nephew establish an import-export business. Cox declined to name the company or give more details.

Starting a new job at such a late stage in his life wasn't difficult, Cox said, because the military had prepared him for anything. "In your army career, you switch from training men to counting socks to making strategic plans, traveling worldwide.

"When we were majors, we used to say you wouldn't be surprised whatever job they gave you," Cox chuckled. "If they said: 'Right, you are going to be headmaster of a girls' public school,' your response would be: 'How long is the handover period?'"

Cox said that his travels have taught him to take everything in stride and that life in Russia has not been difficult.

"When we were in Nigeria, the animals were slaughtered out the back of the shop where my wife bought the meat," he said. "There were vultures perched on the roof. It's all part of life's rich pattern."

Because the army is based on trust, Cox said, it did not prepare him for deception in the business world. "But I've since learned that lesson," he said without elaborating.

Cox began working for real estate firm CMS Weatheralls in 1996. He declined to comment on his five years for the company.

In 2001, Cox formed Astera, where he is chief executive officer.

Astera didn't advertise in its first year in order to avoid attracting too many clients, Cox said.

"I didn't want to have more business than I could handle because your reputation is something that is very valuable and you can't afford to lose it," he said.

"I know you can't please all the people all the time, but we try very hard to do that because we want ongoing business."

Cox, who speaks little Russian but has a handpicked Russian staff, said he relies on word of mouth. "That's really how it goes: I meet people, and from that it grows," he said.

Astera is absorbing St. Petersburg-based Atlantic-Oncor and has opened offices in Moscow and Kiev.

Most of the company's deals involve shops and offices, Cox said. International clients include Pechiney, Heinz, Soci?t? G?n?rale de Surveillance and some Russian firms.

"Now there are so many clients I don't know who they all are -- and that's without advertising," Cox said.

Astera is in talks with an international real estate firm about collaborating on providing for international clients that want to set up in Russia and for Russian clients that want to set up in Europe, Cox said without elaborating.

Apart from his business activities, Cox is chairman of the Royal Society of St. George in Moscow, which raises money for the Taganka Children's Fund.

David Gowan, a minister at the British Embassy who has known Cox for about 10 years, described him as a well-respected and much-liked businessman.

"He has got his own field of work, is active in the broader European business community here and is a shining example of a businessman who has a very wide range of friends among Russians, British people and people in all the other communities here in Moscow," Gowan said.

The EBC's Commeau said Cox was a lively and brilliant public speaker. "He is much younger than the age given in his passport," she said.

Commeau described Cox as "unbelievably English."

"He comes out of a Dickens novel," she said.

Although Cox still has no retirement date in mind, he said he is preparing Astera to continue without him.

"We are gathering around us good staff and we will recruit people who are likely to replace me. I will play a smaller and smaller role," he said.