Biography of Tevfik Arif – International Business Entrepreneur and Property Developer
Tevfik Arif, born Tofik Arifov, is a Turkish-Kazakh businessman whose career in the private sector transcends industries and national borders. He is an accomplished real estate investor and entrepreneur who has built a thriving international company.
Tevfik Arif's Early Life
Tevfik Arif was born in 1953 to Turkish parents living in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. He was the second of four boys. While not much is known about his personal life as a child, Arif's family and upbringing likely influenced the path that he would eventually take as a successful business entrepreneur.
With an interest in business and economics, Arif continued his education at the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics pursuing a degree in international relations. After graduating, Arif took a job working for the government of the Soviet Union.
For 17 years, he worked within the Ministry of Commerce and Trade. He held numerous positions during his time in public service including chief economist, and he was eventually promoted to deputy head of the Hotel Management Department within the Ministry. He worked closely with the hospitality industry across the Soviet Union, a position that would later influence his desire to build luxury hotel properties around the world.
Arif's First Business Ventures
Arif left his job within the government to pursue opportunities in the private sector during the era of privatization that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Arif and his brother acquired ownership in a chromium plant in Kazakhstan, one of the last countries to achieve its independence from the Soviet Union. The plant would help establish Arif as a rising businessman in the region.
The metal and raw material sectors were in disarray after years of neglect under Soviet rule. They were inefficient and lacked innovative technology that had increased the production capabilities of their competitors. Arif expanded his interests in the natural resources industry, founding the Specialty Chemicals Trading Company whose activity focused on the import and export of metals and other raw materials.
After achieving success in the heavy metals industry, Arif began to pursue a passion for real estate investment and property development. His early investment and construction projects were in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey. As a real estate developer, Arif built the Labada Hotel, a luxury resort hotel in Antalya, Turkey.
Tevfik Arif founds Bayrock Group
His success inspired him to expand his real estate portfolio to the United States. In 2001, Arif founded Bayrock Group in New York to enable him to investment in property in the US. His first project was to redevelop the Loehmann's Seaport Plaza, a seaside shopping center in the Sheepshead Bay district of Brooklyn.
After finding early success, Arif soon set his sights on more competitive and prestigious real estate markets in the city. He moved Bayrock Group's offices to Trump Tower in the center of Midtown Manhattan's real estate district. Arif hired Felix Sater as a managing director of Bayrock. Sater was a well-connected individual who would help expand Bayrock's interests. At the time Arif hired him, he was unaware that Sater had a checkered background that would ultimately lead to his dismissal from the firm.
Arif meets Donald Trump
Tevfik Arif aspired to be a luxury property developer in the lucrative Manhattan market. Shortly after establishing Bayrock Group's office in Trump tower, Arif and met Donald Trump. Bayrock Group and the Trump Organization soon developed a working relationship. Bayrock signed a licensing deal with the Trump Organization to build a luxury hotel-condominium project in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
The project, which was announced with great fanfare on an episode of Trump's popular television program, The Apprentice, would be developed and built by Bayrock in partnership with the Sapir Organization. The Sapir Organization was founded by a Georgian immigrant named Tamir Sapir whose determination elevated him from a onetime taxi driver to a successful luxury New York property developer.
Bayrock and Sapir would license the Trump name, branding the complex the Trump SoHo Tower. In exchange for the use of the Trump brand, the Trump Organization would receive 18% equity in the building. In addition, the Trump Organization signed an operating contract that would go into effect upon the completion of the building. Construction on Trump SoHo began in 2006 and was completed in 2008. The 391-unit tower stands 46 stories high and has become a symbol of luxury in the heart of one of Manhattan's trendiest neighborhoods.
Arif's Bayrock Group and the Trump Organization pursued similar licensing agreements in Florida, Arizona and internationally, but these projects were never fully realized. The professional relationship between Bayrock and Trump ended in 2008 due to the economic recession.
Arif's businesses today
After developing Trump SoHo, Arif shifted his business focus and international real estate investment back to Central Asia and Europe. He has since partially retired from his family's business. He remains an important business advisor, providing a wealth of experience and industry connections to further the success of the organization. In retirement, Arif has pursued charitable interests, with a focus on organizations that promote community development such as the Chabad of Port Washington.
Tevfik Arif has built an international business that continues to thrive. His career and life have been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that has taken him far from his humble beginnings growing up in Soviet Kazakhstan.
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