Family fortunes

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Until a few months ago Ziad Makhzoumi was overseeing the construction of some of the region’s most significant buildings, including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Now he is helping to create lives — literally — in what is one of the most dramatic career changes in Dubai’s business world.

The 30-year veteran executive has a history of running companies involved in manufacturing, construction, consulting and the like. When he left his position as CFO at Dubai-based construction company Arabtec Holding, after helping to build the world’s tallest tower, in February following a management shake-up led by its largest shareholder, Abu Dhabi state fund Aabar, Makhzoumi says he was approached by a stream of firms and government entities wanting to secure his expertise. Even the Saudi government asked him to help expand some of its investments.

He could have made a lot of money from it. But another, less powerful, man won over Mahkzoumi’s heart with the call to lead the young fertility firm, Fakih IVF, as it expands across the Middle East, helping couples to have children.

“This is what grabbed me: you see life developing very clearly and you’re a part of that nurturing process to ensure that it eventually becomes a child. That really is a fascinating process,” Makhzoumi says, explaining his decision to become CEO.

“Seeing people come in concerned and going out, eventually, with a child that they love and nurture and is healthy — that’s part of the factors that swayed me.

“When I was introduced to [founder] Dr [Michael] Fakih, I thought he was an amazing person and he’s a pioneer in what he’s doing, but he also has a very good team working with him. His wife Dr Amal Al Shunnar is also a leading expert in IVF and she’s an Emirati local. So all the ingredients were there to make it interesting for me to say, ‘yeah, I’d like to have a go at this’.”

That’s not to say the numbers don’t stack up, as well. They certainly do, and perhaps even more so than the other opportunities.

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF), along with the entire healthcare market, is a rapidly growing sector in the Middle East as citizens become wealthier and more capable of demanding better services and choices. Couples also are delaying marriage and children, which, when paired with increasing lifestyle diseases such as type II diabetes, is making it biologically more difficult for them to conceive naturally.

The United Nations World’s Women 2010 report found the UAE fertility rate had more than halved between 1980 and 2010 to reach the lowest level in the Gulf. The number of births per woman decreased from 5.2 to 1.9.

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