21. Charles Elachi If there’s one person who has driven mankind’s thirst for knowledge about the other planets in our solar system, that man is probably Charles Elachi. NASA’s Deep Space Network, the Mars missions, and the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn; these are all conducted — amongst many other space ventures — by California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is headed up by Lebanon-born Elachi. Elachi retains his ties with the region via a board position of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the King Fahd University of Petrochemicals and Minerals, both in Saudi Arabia. Dr Elachi is also the chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Lebanese American University.
22. Elie Saab “I am not only a fashion designer, I have the vision of an entrepreneur, a businessman,” Elie Saab told Arabian Business last year. He couldn’t be more right. Today, the 47-year-old runs a truly global empire, with boutiques in Beirut, Paris, London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Mexico City. The collections are sold in 50 countries and 70 points of sale worldwide. The Elie Saab story is as original as many of his designs. Born in Beirut to a wood merchant and housewife, his interest in dress making started when he was just nine years old. In 1982, at the age of 18, he opened his first couture atelier in Beirut with fifteen staff on the payroll. Today, with the expansion and growth of the brand, more than 200 employees are part of ELIE SAAB Group. The brand’s global breakthrough started in 1997 with an invitation to take part in the Camera Nazionale della Moda as the only non Italian designer. Since 1999, Elie Saab has dressed Hollywood cinema, music, theatre and television A-list stars. A philanthropist, he participated in many charity events: Paris tout P’tits, les Sapins des Créateurs, les Frimousses des Créateurs, Sidaction, Red Cross fund-raisers, but also the Mosaic Foundation in Washington, the fight against breast cancer in London, the fight against children’s cancer in Beirut. In 2003, he received the title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Cèdre” presented to him by the President of the Lebanese Republic.
27. Elie Khouri It seems everyone wants to work for Elie Khouri these days. Last year his company was ranked in the CEO Middle East “Top Ten Employers” list, and also the “Top Companies to Work for in the UAE” list. Khouri is widely seen as one of the region’s most powerful and inspiring media figures. It was two years ago that he famously told Arabian Business: “People need to wake up and realise what’s going on, they need to see that this industry is changing. And if they don’t adapt to that change, they won’t be around much longer.” Khouri, the MENA boss of Omnicom Media Group, did just that and in the past year most of his rivals have been forced to play catch up. According to monitoring sources, its agencies OMD, PHD and M2M generated $1.9bn worth of billings across the GCC and Levant last year (across all media). After 27 years in the region and 24 years in the industry, there’s certainly no sign of Khouri slowing down. “For me it’s doing something constructive for the industry. It’s not about power and money; you get both anyway when you are leading a big organisation. I care more about making my mark in this industry,” he says.
29. Fairouz When Fairouz sings, the Arab world becomes enchanted. From a relatively poor background, she has grown to be received by heads of state and leaders from all corners of the world, so much so that she has garnered a reputation as the ‘Arabs’ ambassador’. She was first noticed at the International Festival of Baalbek, where she performed many of her songs. She became famous after appearing on the “Lebanese Nights” part of the festival for many successive years. Fairuz is commonly known as “Ambassador to the Stars”, “Neighbor to the Moon” (for her famous song about the moon of Machgara), and the “Jewel of Lebanon”. Fairuz has performed in many countries around the globe including Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Netherlands, Greece, Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and her home country Lebanon. She has performed in many venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1962, the New York Carnegie Hall in 1971, the London Palladium in 1978, L’Olympia de Paris in 1979, London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1986, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (1971, 1981, and 2003), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. (1981 and 1987) among many others. Fairuz has yielded record-breaking performances in almost every concert she has held around the world.
39. Leila El Solh The youngest daughter of the late former Lebanese prime minister, Riad El Solh, Leila El Solh was the first woman in her country’s history to hold a cabinet position when she took on the Minister of Industry brief in 2004. Today, she is best known for her work with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation in Lebanon. Chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed, the foundation has managed to reach many areas in Lebanon to provide funds for development projects and alleviate poverty. Under El Solh’s stewardship, the foundation has become a pillar of support for education, health and social organisations throughout the country. In 2008, she was awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of her efforts made to encourage religious tolerance.
52. Nadine Labaki She has been the darling of the Arab film industry for years, but it appears that the long overdue global recognition is finally coming. Her latest movie, which she also wrote, ‘Where Do We Go Now?’ made its North American debut at the Toronto Film Festival last year and walked away with the hugely prestigious audience award – following in the footsteps of ‘The Kings Speech’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The movie tells the story of what lengths a mother would go to in order to stop her son becoming involved in Lebanon’s sectarian violence. She is also well known as a director in the Arabic music video industry. In 2007, Labaki co-wrote, directed, and starred in her feature-film debut, ‘Caramel’, which became an sensation at global box offices.
55. Joseph Ghossoub Joseph Ghossoub is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MENA Communications Group (MENACOM), parent company of the Team/Y&R. One of the Middle East communications industry’s most prominent spokespersons, he has been involved in managing regional and global agencies for nearly three decades. Under his leadership, MENACOM Group (part of WPP and Y&R Brands) has grown into one of the most successful Middle East communications groups, including 12 Team/Y&R offices in 10 countries. Among his many accolades are the Arabian Business Achievement Award for Business Leadership, ‘Advertising Personality of the Year’ award for his contribution to raising the profile of the Middle East on the international creative advertising and marketing stage and Campaign Middle East’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 2006, the first such award presented by the media and communications industry weekly. Until 2008, he served as Chairman and World President of the International Advertising Association (IAA).
83. Dani Richa Richa has spent more than 20 years with the Group, also serving as president of the Group and regional chief creative officer, transforming the agency into a dominant market leader. Achievements under Dani’s leadership have been numerous; consistently receiving international acclaim, among them recent awards at Cannes Lions Festival, the MENA Effies and the MENA Cristal Festival. As one of the most influential industry figures in the region, Dani has been instrumental in producing some of the most memorable campaigns for key brands. Under his leadership, Impact BBDO has created its own brand of advertising and distinguishes itself as an ad agency. It has added value to clients’ businesses by helping build iconic brands - some from scratch - and has championed social causes.
86. Carlos Ghosn Carlos Ghosn is the chairman and CEO of Japan-based Nissan and holds the same position at Renault, which together produce more than one in ten cars sold worldwide. Ghosn is also chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the strategic partnership overseeing the two companies through a unique cross-shareholding agreement. For orchestrating one of the decade’s most aggressive downsizing campaigns and spearheading the turnaround of Nissan from near bankruptcy in the late 1990s, Ghosn earned the nicknames “le cost killer” and “Mr. Fix It”. After the Nissan financial turnaround, he achieved celebrity status and ranks as one of the 50 most famous men in global business and politics. His life has been chronicled in a Japanese manga comic book.
89. Alex Saber Still only 45 years old, Saber himself is very much a veteran of the industry. His career started in 1991, working as a media executive in Leo Burnett (a sister company of VivaKi), working on bookings and media planning. “I wanted to work in marketing, and there was no VivaKi in those days...There was a media unit in a creative agency, we were at a corner and the creative people got all the attention. We were the back stage,” he told Arabian Business earlier this year. He didn’t stay at the back too long. Seven years later, Starcom Mediavest was created and Saber went to the new operation, spending four years in Saudi Arabia. Following the launch of VivaKi as the umbrella firm, he became CEO in 2007, before taking over as chairman last year.
106. Amin Maalouf Lebanese-French born Amin Maalouf is celebrated for his works on his experiences of civil war and migration. The second of four children, he studied sociology at the French University in Beirut, and worked as a journalist before turning to fiction during the Lebanese civil war of 1975 and moving to Paris. Maalouf’s books typically have a historical setting, and like Umberto Eco and Orhan Pamuk, mixes fascinating historical facts with fantasy and philosophical ideas. Maalouf received a Prix Goncourt in 1993 for his novel The Rock of Tanios, and has also been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2010. In March 2011, Maalouf was shortlisted for the biennial Man Booker International Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the literary industry.
111. Osman Sultan Osman Sultan was behind the launch of the highly successful Mobinil in Egypt in 1998, and in 2007 was behind the launch of du, the UAE’s second telecoms operator, which is 40 percent owned by the UAE Federal Government, 20 percent by Mubadala Development Company, 20 percent by TECOM Investments and 20 percent by public shareholders. In May, the operator posted a 62 percent in first-quarter net profit, beating analysts’ expectations as it added subscribers and mobile data revenue more than doubled from a year earlier. The firm made a profit of AED333.1m ($90.96m) in the three months to March 31 and added 320,600 mobile subscribers to increase its mobile customer base to 5.5 million, giving it a 46.7 percent market share in the country.
144. Nancy Ajram Visit virtually any city in the Middle East, and the face of Nancy Ajram will inevitably be staring down on you from the nearest billboard. Although she advertises pretty much every product known to man, she is — of course — best known as a singer. Winner of a 2008 World Music Award for best-selling Middle Eastern artist, Ajram has even been named by no less than Oprah Winfrey as of the most influential personalities of the Middle East. A legend in her own lifetime, Ajram has sold over 30 million records. Born in Beirut, she took part in a Lebanese TV reality show at the age of twelve, winning a gold medal. She released her first album in 1998, aged just fifteen, and her next two albums, in 2002 in 2004, cemented her position as a regional superstar. In 2010, she was nominated by Coca Cola to sing a track written for the World Cup. Ajram’s Facebook page has well over three million fans.
147. Christine Sfeir At just 22 years old Christine Sfeir persuaded Dunkin’ Donuts to hand over the company’s Lebanese franchise to her. “It was a huge risk because I was 22, I was female and the idea of American coffee and doughnuts was the last thing on people’s minds. But I had a hunch and a vision,” she told Arabian Business last year. nThe rest quickly became history, with the franchise becoming a huge success in Beirut. Five years ago, she added the Lebanese brand Semsom to the fold, and has expanded it into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. New outlets are soon to appear in India, with six openings planned for 2012. She now manages a total of 400 staff.
149. Nabil Habayeb Dubai-based Nabil Habayeb is responsible for developing and expanding the growth of GE’s different businesses across the region. Habayeb joined GE Power Systems’ Field Engineering Programme in 1982 before relocating to Dubai in 1985 where he held several sales positions in the region. He moved to Schenectady, New York in 1989 before returning to the Middle East in 1993. In 2001 he was appointed to his previous role of Regional Executive and General Manager, GE Energy, AIM Region. Last month, Hebayeb told Arabian Business that he was expecting up to $10bn in revenue from Libya as the country rebuilds its battered infrastructure. GE will also bid for nuclear power deals in Saudi Arabia.
150. Maria Maalouf The Lebanese journalist and political analyst is best known for presenting the television programme ‘Without Censorship’, which covered a range of topics including nepotism and fraud in the Arab world. Maalouf made international news when she received death threats following an interview with a German criminal investigator, who accused the Moassad of assassinating the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. She is a member of the Syrian National Society Party.
156. Ziad Makhzoumi As chief financial officer of Arabtec, Makhzoumi has his hands right on the pulse of the financial world. Arabtec Construction is one of the largest contractors in the MENA region and its has become a household name in the construction industry in the Gulf states. It has been involved in world-class developments such as Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. Today, Makhzoumi says Arabtec is back in the business of winning contracts: “We bid for many projects… Things stopped in early 2009 and now it seems that the market is moving”. Arabtec shares have risen by almost 100 percent this year.
177. Nayla Hayek When 82-year-old watch magnate Nicolas Hayek passed away two years ago, there was little doubt as to who would take over the chairmanship of Swiss giant Swatch. Sister Nayla Hayek, Swatch’s vice-chairman, had been groomed for the role since she first sat on the company’s board fifteen years ago. For many years she acted as an advisor to the firm before joining the Swatch Group in 2007. A year later, she became the CEO of the Swatch Group’s subsidiary, Tiffany Watch. nHer appointment was further endorsed when sales were up 21.7 percent last year, despite the dire economic conditions.
185. Jacques Nasser Lebanese-Australian businessman, Jacques Nasser was nominated as the chairman of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, in August 2009, following a successful 33 year career with Ford Motor Company in which he worked in Europe, Australia, Asia, South America and the US. He rose up the ranks to become a member of the Board of Directors and president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company from 1998 to 2001. He has more than 30 years’ experience in large-scale global businesses and a decade in private equity investment. Since November 2002, he has also been a director of British Sky Broadcasting Group. In recognition of his business career, Nasser has been awarded the Order of Australia, the Ellis Island Medal of Honour and the National Order of the Cedar. He also funds several education- focused programmes that help poorer students.
324. Karl Wolf Rapper Karl Wolf has moved from headlining to mentoring young talent.
226. Ziad Rahbani Musical star Ziad Rahbani is the son of the composer Assi Rahbani and the Lebanese diva Fairouz. nHe continues to make the Arabian Business Power 500 given his continued popularity within the Arab world, and his ability to improve political relations with his talent. In 2008, he was invited to perform in Damascus – a move which was considered a gesture of goodwill from Syria, which shares a long and fractured history with Lebanon. Of course, Rahbani demonstrated a creative streak from an early age, when he wrote poems. Today, he has built a name for himself as an accomplished comedian, playwright, composer, singer and radio host. He was first recognised aged seventeen, when he was given the task of writing music for a theatre production in which his mother was due to play the leading role. Standing in for his ill father, the teenager composed the music to accompany the lyrics his uncle had written. His song ‘Saalouni El Nass’ (The People Asked Me) gained him international acclaim.
227. James Zogby Long-term academic James Zogby plays an important part in supporting Arab society through research and teaching. Founder of the Arab American Institute and author of Arab Voices, he has a passion for human rights and social well being, and now boasts an impressive CV which details his participation in a variety of key organisations. New York-born but with a Lebanese background, Zogby is today a senior analyst with JZ Analytics, a lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues and a Global Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi. He also serves on the Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Committee, and he previously was a founding member of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign in 1970. James’ brother, John, is the founder of the Zogby International polling firm.
238. Haifa Wehbe Having been on the cover of over 100 magazines, Lebanese model, actress and singer Haifa Wehbe is well known across the Arab world. She rose to fame as runner up Miss Lebanon, before releasing her debut album Houwa El Zaman in 2002. She has since released several more albums selling millions of copies across the region, and starred in films including the 2008 Pepsi-produced Sea of Stars. In 2006, she was on People magazine’s 50 most beautiful list.
255. Tarek Sultan As chairman of Agility, Tarek Sultan spearheaded the company’s expansion from a local Kuwaiti player to a large logistics firm in the Middle East. Sultan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Williams College. He went on to pursue a Masters in Business Administration specialising in both Finance and Strategic Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to working in Agility, he was the managing director of New York Associates and an associate with Southport Partners. In 2012, Agility reported a net profit of KD7.1m ($25.4m) for the first quarter. Sultan was quoted as saying that the company was on the right track.
256. Elissa Celebrating her 40th birthday in October, Elissar Zakaria Khoury has had a fantastic journey. In fact, her eighth album is set for release this year. Simply known as Elissa, the Lebanese singer is a recipient of the World Music Award for best-selling artist in the Middle East. She has won the World Music Award accolade three times, an achievement yet to be matched by any other Lebanese performer. Elissa has recently resigned from her post as a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN, as her requests to create a program to include onsite visits to affected areas of the Arab World were ignored.
257. Marcel Khalife An exceptionally accomplished composer, singer and oud player, Marcel Khalife has the wonderful gift of being able to connect with Arabs of all ages and locations. The Lebanese-born artist uses his popularity to promote good causes. In 2005, for instance, he was named UNESCO Artist for Peace for his artistic achievement and humanitarian contributions. Khalife was famous for translating poetry into music, and for many years, he teamed up with the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. In fact, his new album, ‘Fall of the Moon’, is a homage to Darwish. Khalife is scheduled to perform in Toronto this coming October at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
322. Mika The Beirut-born singers portfolio has waned since his second album was released in 2009.
333. George Nasra George Nasra heads up one of Dohas most prominent lenders.
335. Paul Doany Former CEO of Turk Telekom — the Turkish incumbent — Paul Doany oversaw Oger nTelecom until last year. He has since set up his own company, focusing on "diversified investments" in internet and IT, as well as geothermal energy.
355. Haifa Al Kaylani Haifa Al Kaylani is a top advocator both of womens rights and female employment issues in the region.
419 Zahi Wehbe Poet, Lebanon
422 Octavia Nasr Journalist, CNN
423 Rabih Abou Khalil Musician, Germany (Lebanon)
429 Antoun Sehnaoui Chairman, Société Générale de Banque au Liban, Lebanon
434 Walid Attalah Designer, UAE (Lebanon)
436 Hala Jaber Journalist, UK (Lebanon)
441 Akram Miknas
443 Elias Khoury
446 Hazem Al Masri
447 Majida Al Roumi Singer, Lebanon
450 Reem Acra Designer, US (Lebanon)
458 Ramzi Raad Founder, TBW/RAAD
481 Tony Kanaan Race car driver, Brazil (Lebanon)
482 Gilberto Kassab Mayor, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Lebanon)