Chapter 1

THE EXODUS

Chahe Yerevanian’s father, Ara Yerevanian, was born in Lebanon in 1935 to a family who had escaped the Armenian genocide of 1915 and immigrated to Lebanon. In the late 1950s, Ara Yerevanian built the first polypropylene factory in the Middle East. After a few years, he entered the real estate development business and started developing various low-income housing compounds. In 1972, Ara was elected as a member of the Lebanese parliament. When the war broke out in 1975, he moved his family to Paris. During the ceasefire, the family moved back and forth from Paris. After many of these trips, and as he started receiving threats regarding the kidnapping of his children, Ara, worried about his family’s security, decided to move to Canada to start a new life.

He thus gifted the polypropylene factory to Haroutioun Kassardjian, the husband of his eldest sister, and liquidated all his other assets, including his villa, and moved to Toronto, Canada, with his wife and 3 children, in 1981.

In Canada, Ara entered into a partnership with the Armoyans (young, successful, Armenian businessmen) and started a development company called Nor-Arm. In the beginning, the company performed very well, but in the late 80s, due to the recession, the company went almost bankrupt. Due to a lack of confidence from the banks, and demoralized from the heavy loss, Ara decided to leave Canada; he moved back to Paris, France, in 1990. He resigned from his position as the elected member of the Lebanese parliament during the same year, which made him the first-ever politician to resign in Lebanon.

Ara Yerevanian’s eldest son, Vahe, did not continue to university after graduating from high school. He instead moved into a luxurious apartment in Paris with his wife and their new-born child. However, Ara’s second son, Chahe, graduated from the American University of Paris and worked for 3 months at Merrill Lynch and then for a year as a financial portfolio hedge fund manager. And Ara’s youngest son, Serge, continued his high school studies in Paris.

Ara Yerevanian’s main income in Paris was from his $8m investment in the financial market, which was managed by a friend who was a financial consultant. This investment gave them an average return of 10% per year from which the family managed their expenditures. Other than this investment, Ara owned a 250-sqm apartment on Avenue Montaigne, and a 120-sqm apartment, also on Avenue Montaigne, where Vahe lived with his wife and daughter.

In order to encourage Vahe to work, Ara created a renovating construction company “YV immobilier”. Unfortunately, the company closed in less than a year. Realizing that there was no future for the family in Paris, Ara Yerevanian decided to move back to Lebanon after a 13-year absence from the country. He wanted to establish a real-estate company once again in the middle-income housing sector, and leverage on the good reputation he had in Lebanon. So Ara, with the help of his son Chahe, who was taking care of the family investments in the stock market, liquidated his investments in the financial market and sold both his Parisian apartments. With $10m in the pocket, the family returned to Lebanon in May 1995.