Robert Zellinger de Balkany studied architecture in the United States. In the United States, he discovered the concept of huge shopping malls and decided to import it in France. His first great complex, Parly II, in Chesnay, west of Paris, opened in 1969.
His first wife was Geneviève, daughter of ambassador André François-Poncet. They married in 1957 and divorced in 1966. In 1969, he married Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, daughter of Italy's last king, Umberto II, and his wife, Marie José of Belgium. They divorced in 1990.