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Lebanese family become billionaires by opening Zara stores


(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The Lebanese Daher family have become billionaires by opening 55 fashion and lifestyle brands in 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Daher brothers — Wassim, Said, and Hasan — own Azadea Group, a Beirut-based company that own and manage 600 retail outlets, including Max Mara, Sunglass Hut, Massimo Dutti, and Zara, among others.

Azadea’s largest collection of stores are in mega malls in the United Arab Emirates, which is the company’s most profitable country, according to a former Azadea senior executive.

The company employs 11,000 people and the brothers are estimated to have a fortune of at least $1.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Wassim Daher founded the company in 1978 as a multi-brand clothing store in Hamra Beirut. His brother Hasan and Said later joined the company as managing director and chief executive, respectively.

Said Daher says the company grew rapidly when it began exclusively purchasing and opening “already-successful” franchises in the Middle East.

“You can grow much faster as a franchise than if you’re operating your own brand. With a franchise, you’re implementing already-successful business models,” he told Beirut-based Executive Magazine in a 2005 interview. “Why bother establishing a vertically integrated business model which will take you years and years to perfect when you can get involved at the end of the supply chain and start opening outlets in promising markets in a matter of months?”

Lebanese businessman Said Daher, the CEO of Azadea Group, signs with Mall of Arabia to open series of fashion outlets. (Photo ©  Rana Moghabghab)
Lebanese businessman Said Daher, the CEO of Azadea Group, signs with Mall of Arabia to open series of fashion outlets. (Photo © Rana Moghabghab)

In 2011, the Daher brothers opened the Azadea Foundation, an environmental NGO in Lebanon, which is financed exclusively by Azadea board members and employees.

The Azadea Foundation is credited with the restoration of the 107-year-old René Mouawad Sanayeh Garden, the city’s biggest 22,000 square meter public garden, which underwent a $2.5 million makeover.

Azadea Foundation also planted over 8,500 trees in three plantation projects in the woodlands of Lebanon. The group plans to spread environmental awareness in school workshops and “Green Booths” in Beirut malls.

Meanwhile, the Azadea Group continues to grow, and the brothers say they will remain committed to Lebanon.

In January, Bloomberg reported that two Dubai-based companies were reportedly set to bid for a 25 percent stake in Azadea Group. The bids by KKR & Co, Fajr Capital, and Majid Al Futtaim Holdings are currently in the second round of bidding for the Lebanese company.

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