Hussain Sajwani on Building, Crashing, and Rebuilding

Hussain Sajwani on Building, Crashing, and Rebuilding

Hussain Sajwani came from humble beginning and rose to be one of the richest men in the world, and the head of the largest and most powerful real estate empire in the eastern hemisphere. He led a real estate development boom that had never been seen in the middle east before, and in early 2008 he and his company were considered to be the most formidable force in new growth development and a great investment option for those who wanted to take advantage of one of the strongest real estate markets the world had ever known. Of course, that was in early 2008, just a few short months before the economic downturn and the largest real estate crash the world had ever seen in recorded history. The markets didn’t see it coming, the experts didn’t see it coming, and most certainly despite all of his business prowess the DAMAC owner didn’t see it coming. Needless to say the old adage of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” was in play, and Sajwani knew that no matter what he did to stave off the impact his firm and its investors were going to get hit, and they were going to get hit hard. He was right.

 

Hussain started out his life as the son of Ali Sajwani, a shop owner who specialized in up-market ink pens and high-quality watches for the businessmen who were part of the economic resurgence of the 70’s and 80’s in the middle east. His mother was a housewife who helped to supplement the family income by making cloth, jellies, and butters, and other small crafts that she sold to other housewives in her and her husband’s social circle. Hussain was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the shop one day, but he wanted more. He worked hard and got a full government scholarship to a prestigious medical university in Baghdad. He did well in his studies, but he didn’t feel the passion that he should for the subject and left school. His mind was always drifting back to those powerful men in their perfect business attire and their affluent lifestyles. He had to ask himself did he want to be the man selling them their next expensive watch, or did he want to be the man buying it.

 

The first incarnation of the DAMAC Group grew quickly. In less than 10 years it had millions of square feet of space under its development. It was working with the future President of the United States Donald Trump, on two massive golf course and luxury country club projects, and it had scaled out plans for hundred of more developed properties on the board. Then the crash came, and seemingly overnight it all came falling down. The DAMAC owner recalls how he flew back home immediately upon hearing of the crisis at Lehman Brothers. He worked tirelessly for the next few days to put safeguards in place, to cut off hemorrhage locations, and to input cost-saving measures he knew, just as everyone else did, that it was just a stop gap. There was no way to prevent the disaster that was coming, in fact, there was very little that could even be done to reduce its impact. The real estate market was burning, and the DAMAC Group was the largest middle eastern component of that market. DAMAC was going to bleed, and bleed badly for a while, the only thing they could do at this point was to try to shield as much of the company and it’s investors from the fallout and hope that when they were done riding out the tidal wave that there would be enough left to begin rebuilding.

 

Once the crisis did pass, there was a significant amount of the firm left to start rebuilding. Granted, what was there was bent, dinged, and dented, some of it badly. Relationships had been lost that would never be able to be healed, trust was gone, not just in DAMAC and its owner, but in the market as a whole, and most of all, resources were either gone or tied up in such illiquidity that they were useless. Still, Hussain had built up the company the first time, and with a vote of confidence from the board and the backing of the remaining investment partners, he was ready to do it again.

 

He did to it again. Last year the DAMAC group was named one of the fastest growing and strongest performing entities in the real estate market by numerous journals and publications. The investors returned, the trust was rebuilt, and the damaged relationships did heal with time. It was all due to the expert guidance of a man who never gives up on what he believes in, and most of all never walks away from the things that he loves.

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