Chapter 3

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON

After Ara Yerevanian’s death, most banks did not have any trust in his sons nor the wife of Ara, for they thought the driving force behind the company was Ara alone, and thus started pressuring the company into closing its debts.

One month prior to Ara’s death, Chahe married in Cyprus, but because his wife, Reem, was a Muslim, and his father always insisted that he marry an Armenian, Chahe waited for his father to get well before telling him this news, fearing the stress would be overwhelming for his already weakened father. However, Ara never got better and died without knowing about Chahe’s marriage. But on the other hand, rumors had spread in the Armenian community that Ara died because of Chahe’s marriage. Many jealous parties benefitted from this rumor and reinforced these rumors to further discredit Chahe and the Yerevanian family.

His brother Vahe, and Ara’s wife, Houry, disapproved of Chahe’s marriage and decided not to speak to Chahe except at work, where they slowly pushed him to leave by not assigning him any role in decision making, and they also took away his signature in the company so that he could not sign alone. With around $200k and a few investments, Chahe managed to rent an apartment, and bought a car on loan, which he gave to his wife, and started his new married life.

Chahe had founded OneEstate.com with a friend of his, which had already been running for a year. It was the first online real estate portal in the Middle East. Chahe had many investments in various companies other than the family business (he was the co-founder of Allo Taxi, the first taxi company in Lebanon; he was a partner in Loyalty, a respected insurance broker company; and he was also a member of RDCL of young Lebanese entrepreneurs and the internationally renowned Young Presidents Organization member).

After being indirectly thrown out of the family venture, Chahe decided to concentrate on OneEstate.com and move on with his life. His younger brother, Serge, graduated with honors from AUB and moved to the USA to continue with his masters. Vahe stayed with his mother and tried to manage the family business.

In late 2001, the situation of the family business was disastrous: no sales were done and bank debts had risen manifold. Unable to cope with the pressure, and since Vahe could not be relied upon as he neither had any experience in managing a company nor the necessary diplomas to do so, Houry called Chahe and convinced him to come back and preside over the company to save it. She admitted that they were wrong in pushing Chahe away and asked for his forgiveness. And in order to convince Chahe to return to the company, she started talking to his wife and urged Vahe to do the same. Chahe and his wife were invited over to Houry’s house and for the first time, they met Chahe’s pregnant wife. His daughter was born on 2/2/2002 at 2:22 pm on an exceptionally warm February day of 22 degrees. The number 2 became the lucky number of Chahe.

Chahe left OneEstate.com, came back to the family business in 2002, and presided over the company as General Manager. Chahe decided first to lower the company’s debts. He used his personal contacts that he had gained through his personal business and started contacting various developers around the region of the New Rawda project. This way, he was able to sell 10,000 sqm out of the 25,000 sqm of land in just a few months and could reduce the bank debts to half.

Through OneEstate.com (Chahe’s internet company that was still running at that time), two Bahraini clients showed interest in purchasing two apartments in the New Rawda project. Chahe personally overlooked the sales process and convinced the clients to buy the two apartments. After these two sales, in less than a year, Chahe was able to sell the apartments to over 200 other Bahrainis, through roadshow presentations that he personally organized. The company thus regained some trust from the banks as they saw in Chahe a promising businessman and a person they could trust. In fact, at one meeting with one of these top banks’ officials, he was asked if they could do life insurance on Chahe as they did not trust Vahe and Houry and feared that without Chahe, the company would not be able to survive.

In less than 2 years after Chahe presided over the company, all debts were closed and the company was in a much better position than ever before. And the fact was that a majority of the sales were due to OneEstate.com and Chahe's sales skills which opened the door with the first two GCC clients. These clients were from Bahrain, which means "the 2 seas", reminding Chahe once again his lucky number 2.

Chahe then decided to start developing the second phase of the New Rawda project, which was again sold out after just one roadshow, which Chahe had organized, and for which he went to the GCC himself to promote the project. During these roadshows, he would also take his mother Houry, as he thought this would give confidence to clients seeing a solid family enterprise.

In 2004, he restructured the family operations and founded SAYFCO HOLDING in addition to several subsidiaries, which rocketed the company to a leading position in the local real estate market. Chahe believed that eventually, management should be separated from shareholders, as he was convinced this was the only way for a family business to last many generations. He firmly held a view that someone who merits in leading the company should be sitting on top of it, even if one day that person is not a family member. Vahe and Houry disagreed with him, and said the only reason the company was alive was because of the Ara Yerevanian name, whereas none of the GCC clients knew the Yerevanian name, and without these sales, the company was bankrupt.

This gave rise to another personal conflict between Chahe, Vahe and Houry. A few years ago, Vahe and Houry were drowning in debt and desperate to save the company. Although they agreed that it was only after Chahe’s return that the situation had turned 180 degrees and admitted that Chahe was the savior, only a few years later, Vahe and Houry had a negative outlook towards Chahe.

The same year, the twins Marc and Tina were born on 27/5/2004 (that week is the 22nd week of the year 2004 and God gave him 2 new beautiful children; another symbol with the number 2).

Chahe put aside these personal family matters and decided to make SAYFCO a real estate brand that everyone knew, with thousands of sales per year.

While SAYFCO had for a long time been involved in the Metn area, Chahe decided to expand the company’s activities to cover other regions of Lebanon with the aim of developing new projects all over the country in the near future.