REVEALED: Most powerful Lebanese people
See photos of some of the most influential Lebanese people of the year
495 Joelle Mardinian
\nJoelle Mardinian is a renowned TV personality on MBC’s weekly reality show entitled, “Joelle”. She is also a prominent business women and a leading beauty expert in the Middle East.
\nPresently, joelle is integral to the luxury beauty sector of the GCC, with her leading beauty centers anchored in every major city among Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Riyadh, and Doha.
\nShe has been recognized as the ‘Arab Woman of the Year’ in 2010 and was listed among the 100 most powerful Arab women in 2013 for her success and accomplishments throughout the Middle East.
\nToday Joelle is one of the most influential and inspiring personalities in the Arab world. She is the official regional creative director for one of the world’s most renowned cosmetic brand “MaxFactor” and is soon set to launch her own skin care and professional hair care brand ‘ Joelle Paris ‘
\nFurthermore joelle is launching the first celebrity cosmetic clinic named ‘ Clinica’ in collaboration with A list doctors, surgeons, researchers and beauty consultants who are celebrities in their own field.
\nSee the full list of the 500 most influential Arabs in the world here
387 Mona Bawarshi
\nPresident and CEO
\nMona Bawarshi has soared up the ladder at her family-run logistics company Gezairi Transport, which employs over 500 people and oversees operations in more than six countries. She started as a trainee in 1968 after earning her MBA at the American University of Beirut. She is now at its helm. Her business prowess also has seen her appointed as a member of Beirut’s International College board of trustees.
335 Ray Irani
\nRay Irani was brought to US energy giant Occidental Petroleum Corporation in 1983 to help its struggling chemicals division. Serving as a director for his first year, he was quickly promoted to chief operating officer in 1984, a position he held for six years. In recent years, the company’s achievements have also been largely attributed to Irani. He is currently co-chair of the board of trustees for the American University of Beirut.
333 Haifa Wehbe
\nArts & Entertainment\nWehbe has released four albums and is one of the region's best-selling singers.
316 Karl Wolf
\nArts & Entertainment
\nRapper Wolf is still producing albums; he is also managing new urban music artists.
\nArts & Entertainment
\nMika released his first full length studio album, Life in Cartoon Motion, on Island Records in 2007, which went on to sell more than 5.6 million copies worldwide and helped the Beirut-born singer win a Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough act and receive a Grammy nomination.
\nThe singer, the third of five children to a Lebanese mother and American father, released his second album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, in 2009 and his third album, The Origin of Love, in 2012, which features his first French track. As a child Mika was trained by Alla Ablaberdyeva Russian opera soprano, and later attended the Royal College of Music, London.
\nArts & Entertainment
\nElissar Zakaria Khoury, known to millions across the Arab world simply as Elissa, is one of the region’s biggest stars.
\nBorn to a Lebanese mother and Syrian father, Elissa made her debut in 1992 in Studio El Fan, a popular music competition, where she won a silver medal. Her debut album, Baddi Doub, on EMI followed in 1999 and since then she has released seven more studio albums. She is the recipient of the World Music Award for best-selling artist in the Middle East and has won the World Music Award accolade three times, an achievement yet to be matched by any other Lebanese performer.
283 Marcel Khalife
\nArts & Entertainment
\nAn 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.
\nIn 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 most recent album, ‘Fall of the Moon’, paid homage to Darwish.
280 Najwa Karam
\nArts & Entertainment
\nNajwa Karam is a multi-platinum recording artist who has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Karam dominated the region’s music scene between 1994 and 1999, earning herself the title of bestselling Middle Eastern artist for five years with a blend of traditional and contemporary Arab music.
\nShe has collaborated with composer Melhem Barakat as well as ‘the voice of Lebanon’ Wadih El Safi. More recently, Karam has won thousands of new fans through her appearance as the main judge on MBC’s Arab’s Got Talent. She is one of record label Rotana’s highest paid artists and was last year appointed as L’Oreal Paris’ first Arab Ambassador.
273 Dr Karim El Solh
\nCo-founder and CEO
\nBanking and Finance
\nKarim El Solh is co-founder and CEO of Gulf Capital, one of the largest Middle Eastern private equity firms, established with a capital base of $330m.
\nEl Solh holds a bachelors degree in civil engineering from Cornell University, an MBA from Georgetown University, a Ph.D. in economics from the Institute D’Etudes Politiques de Paris and a Certified Management Accountant diploma. The last few months have been a busy period for El Solh, who has helped the firm acquire a 51 percent in Dubai’s OCB Oilfield Services in February. He has also previously said that the firm is exploring a potential initial public offering (IPO) for GMS, one of the biggest assets in its portfolio, on a major stock market such as London in two years› time.
257 Bahaa Hariri
\nBanking & Finance
\nBahaa Hariri, the eldest son of the late Rafik Hariri, left the family-owned construction, utility and telecommunications company, Saudi Oger, in 2009 to concentrate on his own property company, Horizon Development.
\nThe Geneva-based firm is in partnership with Jordan›s government owned real estate developer to build a $5bn mini-city in the port of Aqaba on the Red Sea and in also developing a $500m residential tower, commercial shopping centre and hotel project in Lebanon. The Boston University graduate is a major stakeholder in Globe Express Services (Overseas Group), which is ranked among the top 100 logistics providers globally.
240 Jacques Nasser
\nThe Lebanese-born Australian businessman currently serves as chairman of the Board of BHP Billiton.
\nAfter serving as a Director of BHP Billiton Limited and BHP Billiton Plc since 2006, Nasser was appointed Chairman of both in March 2010, succeeding Don Argus. Nasser is also a non-executive advisory partner of One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase, a board director for British Sky Broadcasting, and a member of the International Advisory Council of Allianz AG.Nasser was formerly CEO of the Ford Motor Company.
221 Christine Sfeir
\nChristine Sfeir has never shied away from hard work. In between raising two young children, she has also created one of the region’s most successful restaurant empires.
\nAt the age of just 22, she 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 says. The rest is history, with the franchise becoming a huge success in Beirut. She has now also added the Lebanese restaurant chain SemSom to the fold, offering “Lebanese Cuisine ‘with a Twist’”. Franchises have been set up in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with plans for outlets in more countries. She now manages at least 400 staff.
\nSfeir is also a board member of the Lebanese Franchise Association and active member of the Lebanese League for Women in Business.
213 James Zogby
\nArab American Institute
\nCulture & Society
\nZogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington–based, not-for-profit organization that provides political and policy research on Arabs in America.
\nThe organisation, aims to empower Arabs in the American political system and increase the visibility of Arab-Americans. It also acts like a think tank, issuing policy initiatives and encouraging its members to contact members of Congress. Zogby is also managing director of Zogby Research Services, which specializes in research and communications and undertakes polling across the Arab World. Zogby is a lecturer on Middle East issues and a Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi.
176 Carlos Ghosn
\nCarlos 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.
\nGhosn 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 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.
170 Nabil Habayeb
\nPresident, Middle East
\nNabil Habayeb is the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey region President and CEO of General Electric, the biggest maker of power-generation equipment. From Dubai he has been steering the company’s expansion and development across the region.
\nHabayeb, a native of Lebanon and a mechanical engineering graduate of Syracuse University joined GE Power Systems’ Field Engineering Programme in 1982.
\nHabayeb expects “double digit growth” in its sales from the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan, as governments invest billions of dollars in their infrastructure, move towards energy efficiency and meet the needs of their growing populations. In Libya alone, Habayeb estimates as much as $10bn in revenue from Libya, as the North African country vies to rebuild its economy, infrastructure, and institutions, and respond to the demands of its population. In 2011, GE earned about $8.6bn in revenue from the region.
167 Najib Mikati
\nA businessman turned politician. Mikati, 57, who entered Lebanon›s fractious political scene in 1998 as a Minister of Public Works and transport, before then becoming a member of parliament representing his native northern port city of Tripoli, later served as a caretaker premier once in 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.
\nMikati, a graduate of the American University of Beirut, helped cofound Investcom along with his brother Taha.
\nThe company was listed on both the London and Dubai stock exchanges in 2006, in what was at the time the largest international listing of a Middle Eastern company.
\nMTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone operator, bought the company in 2006 for $5.5 billion. M1 Group, which the two brothers run, became its second-largest shareholder. The company’s holdings include real estate investments in the US, Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Geneva-based Baboo airline, French retailer Faconnable and being a major shareholder in Royal Jordanian Airlines.
143. Nancy Ajram
\nArts & Entertainment
\nLebanese superstar Nancy Ajram is one of the most successful Arab singers of all time. With eight albums and numerous chart-topping singles to her name, many consider her to be among the top Arabic music icons of the decade. In 2008 she was named the best-selling artist in the Middle East at the World Music Awards, and two years later achieved wide acclaim when she sang ‘Wavin’ Flag’ for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. US TV icon Oprah Winfrey has also branded her one of the most influential personalities in the Middle East.
136. Nadine Labaki
\nArts & Entertainment
\nArguably the best known auteur in the Arab music video world, the 36-year-old Lebanese actress and director is often credited for bringing new artists onto the burgeoning Arab pop scene.
\nHer 2007 breakout debut, Caramel, became an international sensation which showed the less-seen side of Beirut — a romantic comedy centered on five women who gather regularly at a beauty salon to discuss love, life and sex. The movie landed Labaki on Variety’s annual list of ten directors to watch. Her second feature film, Where Do We Go Now?, scooped prizes around the world, including the people’s choice award at the Toronto Film Festival. As a songwriter, her regular collaborations with pop star Nancy Ajram have helped Labaki push forward a more modern take on the current state of Arab womanhood.
135. Ramzi Raad
\nChairman & CEO
\nTBWA/RAAD Middle East
\nRaad graduated from the American University of Beirut and began his advertising career in 1967. For the following twelve years he helped to expand the first Middle East regional agency network, by helping establish its branches in Kuwait and Bahrain in the early seventies. As a result of the eruption of the civil war in his native Lebanon, he was the first Lebanese ad man to move to the Gulf where he settled in Dubai in October 1975. In 1982 he moved to Paris and two years later he transferred to London for the next four years. He returned to Dubai in 1986 and it has remained his base of operations ever since.
134. Saad Abdul Latif
\nPepsiCo Asia, Middle East & Africa
\nSaad Abdul-Latif is Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Asia, Middle East and Africa. PepsiCo is a global food and beverage leader with net revenues of more than $65 billion and a product portfolio that includes 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in annual retail sales. PepsiCo’s main businesses – Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola – make hundreds of enjoyable foods and beverages that are loved throughout the world. He assumed his current role in September 2008, and is responsible for PepsiCo’s Asia, Middle East and Africa sector – a business unit comprised of the company’s food and beverage businesses in the region, generating $7.4bn in annual revenues in 2011 and spanning more than 90 countries.
132. Nisreen Shocair
\nVirgin Megastore Middle East
\nNisreen Shocair took over the helm of Virgin Megastores, Middle East in 2006 and has overseen the brand’s transformation from a CD and DVD store to a one-stop shop for music, video and multimedia entertainment. Shocair, who grew up in Nigeria, started her entertainment career working at a local Blockbuster store in Texas before finishing her degree and joining Sony in the early 1990s. In addition to her role at Virgin, Shocair also sits on the advisory board of several digital and environmental start-ups.
129. Raja Trad
\nLeo Burnett (MENA)
\nTrad is the CEO of Leo Burnett Group MENA, a major integrated communications network headquartered in Dubai, and with offices in Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait, Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Casablanca. Through solid and expansive partnerships with its multinational clients and through the strong growth of its regional and local accounts, Leo Burnett MENA has become one of the region’s largest and most successful agencies.
\nNow a member of the Leo Burnett Worldwide Global Leadership Council, Trad began his career in advertising in 1978 as an account executive with Young & Rubicam on the P&G account in Beirut and Athens. In 1981, he joined H&C Leo Burnett Beirut as an account director, and in 1984 he was named regional account director on the Philip Morris account.
\nArts & Entertainment
\nKnown as the Arabs’ ambassador and the ‘Jewel of Lebanon’, Fairuz is still considered one of the greats of the Middle East music scene. Fairuz received her education in Beirut and started her musical career as a chorus singer at the Lebanese radio station. Today, she is revered in the region.
113. Anissa Helou
\nCulture & Society
\nHelou started off with a career as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East, followed by some time in Paris where she ran an antique shop and then took up an advisory role to members of the ruling family of Kuwait before embarking on a new course in her life in the 1990s involving cooking. The trilingual chef who recently founded Anissa’s School, has made numerous media appearances and written extensively on food with columns appearing in the Financial Times.
54. Osman Sultan
\nThe growth of the UAE’s second mobile telco, du, has been nothing short of astonishing. As CEO, Osman Sultan’s role in the company’s story has been vital. Sultan was behind the launch of the highly successful Mobinil in Egypt in 1998, and in 2007 was behind the launch of du, 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. Du more than doubled its profit after royalties during the fourth quarter to $270m, compared to the same period in 2011.
\nThe figure topped off a record year for annual revenues and profit, with du recording a net profit after royalties of $540m, up from $300m in 2011. The company’s revenue increased 14.7 percent to $2.77bn during the year.
52. Alex Saber
\nWith more than 20 years of experience in media and communications, Alex 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), overlooking 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 last year. He didn’t stay at the back too long. Seven years later, Starcom Mediavest was created and Saber, a graduate of the University of Iowa, 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 in 2011.
42. Pierre Choueiri
\nChairman and CEO
\nIt’s now nearly 50 years since Pierre Choueiri’s father, Antoine, put in place the foundations of one of the region’s biggest media empires. At its height, the Choueiri Group controlled the advertising to most of the Middle East›s TV stations, including in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Today, headed up by Pierre, the group manages the advertising space of 23 satellite and terrestrial TV stations, as well as fourteen print titles and nine radio stations. It has clients in eleven markets across the MENA region, as well as in Japan.
40. Riad Salameh
\nCentral Bank of Lebanon
\nBanking & Finance
\nThe list of challenges that Lebanon faces is immense. But the list would be even longer if Riad Salameh had not been at the helm of the country’s central bank for the past decade or so. In 2004, he forbade Lebanese banks from investing in exotic derivatives and subprime lending, which shielded local lenders from the worst of the post-Lehman Brothers fallout. A prudent monetary policy, coupled with high interest rates have seen an increase in bank deposits, although the fear of contagion from neighboring Syria has stalled Lebanon’s economic growth. More positively, the country has pulled back from a potential debt crisis, with debt-to-GDP declining to 130 percent, from 180 percent in 2006. If the Lebanese economy is to regain its feet, Salameh will be crucial to its hopes.
37. Leila El Solh
\nAlwaleed Bin Talal Foundation
\nCulture & Society
\nThe youngest daughter of the late former Lebanse 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.
\nToday, 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 the efforts made by the foundation to encourage religious tolerance.
33. Nayla Hayek
\nNayla Hayek was elected chairwoman of the Swatch Group, the largest manufacturer of finished watches in the world, in July 2010.
\nHayek, whose father co-founded the company, has been an active member of the board ever since her appointment in 1995. When her father died in 2010 he was ranked the 232nd richest person in the world with an estimated wealth of $3.9bn.
\nSwatch’s importance lies not just in the fact that it is such a huge manufacturer; it makes most of the parts that make other Swiss watches tick. With that expertise has come profits by the bucketload; net income was up 26 percent last year to $1.76bn.
\nThe firm has been on the acquisition war path in recent years; its stable of brands includes Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines and Tissot. In January, the watch giant announced it had acquired the Harry Winston Diamond Corp.’s luxury goods operation in a deal valued at as much as $1bn.
\nHayek splits her time between Biel, Switzerland, and Dubai. She is an international Arabian horse judge.
25. Joseph Ghossoub
\nJoseph 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 is the Arabian Business Achievement Award for Business Leadership.
23. Elie Khouri
\nOmnicom Media Group
\nThe last year has been a busy one at Omnicom Media Group.
\nThe company has focused its energy on talent, something demonstrated by its ranking in the list of best companies to work for in the UAE for the second year running. With the launch of Resolution, which specialises in performance marketing, including search, programmatic buying and social/mobile advertising, the group is capitalising on a significant growth in demand for such services from brands. Thanks to organic growth, but also new account wins, including McDonald’s, IKEA in Egypt, Qnbn, Bentley, Mubadala or Sony Mobile, Omnicom Media Group has registered a healthy rise in revenues.
\nMonitoring sources report a growth of more than 30 percent to $2.5bn. Its two communications agency networks, OMD and PHD, have innovated with the introduction of new operating systems and shared their intellectual property through events such as OMD Predicts and PHD BrainScape.
\nThe group’s CSR programme, which is founded on the pillars of the environment, corporate behaviour and the community, saw Khouri become a board member of START, a non-profit organisation established by Art Dubai and the Al Madad Foundation, and of Injaz-UAE, an organisation dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
19. Elie Saab
\nCulture & Society
\n“I am not only a fashion designer, I have the vision of an entrepreneur, a businessman,” Elie Saab told Arabian Business recently.
\nHe 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.
\nSince 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.
13. Charles Elachi
\nJet Propulsion Laboratory
\nWhere were you on the morning of 6 August last year? Chances are you were among the millions around the world watching the live feed of NASA’s Curiosity rover as it touched down on Mars.
\nTo say that the landing, which was seen by 50 million people in the US alone on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)’s website, was tense is an understatement; after making its 450 million kilometre journey from Earth to Mars, the rover had to decelerate from a speed of 20,000 km/h to zero in just fifteen minutes to effect a safe touchdown onto the Red Planet’s surface. It was by far the most complicated attempt to land on another planet that humans have so far attempted. For Charles Elachi, the head of JPL, the success of Curiosity marks just another step in an astonishing journey that has taken him from the Lebanese town of Zahle, via university in France, to Pasadena, where the JPL is headquartered.
\n“In a sense, it is a positive thing that reflects on the US…people all around the world look at the US as an exciting, forward-thinking nation, and as we share with all the world what we are doing, it’s not a selfish thing,” Elachi told us last year. “In the end, I usually tell people from wherever they are in the world that it’s not my rover — we’re just the team that built it. It’s yours as well.”