Chapter 2

THE RETURN HOME

Upon the return of the Yerevanian family to Lebanon, ‘Ara Yerevanian & Sons Sarl’ was created, and $6m were invested in the company. Further, a 4-floor apartment building, which cost $2.5m, was built as the family’s residence, in Mtayleb, an upper-class suburb of Beirut.

The new company started working on a small, 12-unit apartment project in Fanar. Chahe was responsible for sales and marketing and overlooked the finance of the company while Vahe was responsible for construction management. Ara Yerevanian was the main manager of the company.

From 1995 till 1998, the company constructed and sold around 300 apartments (12 in Fanar, 40 in Jdeideh, 80 in Zalka and 150 in Bauchrieh). 

In 1998, Ara Yerevanian decided to buy a 25,000-sqm land in New Rawda, in the suburbs of Beirut, for $5m, which belonged to the Mechitarists, a congregation of Benedictine monks of the Armenian Catholic Church. The company did not have these funds nor did Ara, as most of the family’s funds were invested in the company and were frozen in unsold apartments and shops.

He thus took a loan from the bank (BLOM Bank) and planned to develop a 500-unit residential compound on this 25,000-sqm hill. As he wanted to target the Armenian clientele, prior to marketing the project, he sent to all Armenian institutions, namely the Tachnag party, in order for them to send Armenian clients. After 6 months of waiting, not a single Armenian client turned up. And only a few apartments were sold although the construction had already started. Meanwhile, the bank debts were increasing by the day.

At that time, the real estate sector was going through a crisis, and sales were very rare. Meanwhile, since Ara had been a Member of Parliament from 1972 to 1990, he wanted to run for the elections once again. However, the main Armenian party (the Tachnag party), which had vetoed him from running for the 1996 elections, vetoed him from running in the 2000 parliamentary elections as well. Ara Yerevanian was very stressed and felt financially and politically deceived. His relation with the Tachnag had been tarnished since the early 90s when the party sold a real estate property that Ara had donated to them during the 70s. Now, with this veto on him, the relation between him and the party was at its worst.

Ara fell ill in the mid-2000, and after battling colon cancer, he passed away on December 18, 2000.

Meanwhile, company debt reached over $7m. Also, the construction of phase 1 of the New Rawda project was only half-way through and capital was needed to complete the construction.

Ara Yerevanian had a very successful career and was known as one of the most reputable businessmen in Lebanon but, with his death, he left a heavily indebted company to his family, even though there was an unsold inventory as assets.