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Sam Nazarian: Philanthropy and Future Ventures

Sam Nazarian is an Iranian-American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of SBE Entertainment Group. Nazarian was born to a Persian Jewish family in Tehran in 1975. The Nazarian family immigrated to the United States following the Iranian Revolution. He is the son of Younes Nazarian who made a fortune along with his brother Izak Parviz Nazarian as an early investor in Qualcomm. Raised in Beverly Hills, California attending Beverly Hills High School and later studying at the University of Southern California, Nazarian hooked into what LA was about by living there and used that knowledge to build his empire. While the Nazarian family has become very influential in the Los Angeles area and beyond, they are generous with the time and money and give back to the community.

Sam Nazarian's career began in 1998, when he founded the telecommunication business, Platinum Wireless. Using the profits of the company, Sam diversified his family assets by moving into real estate holdings; he started the real estate development firm 3Wall Development. He was a real entrepreneur from the start and continued to foster that mindset as he built upon each business venture.

In 2002 he founded SBE Entertainment Group, which is hospitality, real estate, and entertainment company. Through the firm, Sam owns numerous nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, and lounges, whose successful management certainly steadily increases his net worth.

Some of the nightclubs in his ownership include Create, Emerson, Hyde, Colony, Greystone Manor, Eden, The Abbey and My House among others. He partnered with Philippe Starck, Jose Andres, Katsuya Uechi and Michael Mina to start several restaurants; Katsuya restaurant has its locations in Hollywood, Glendale, Los Angeles, and San Diego, XIV restaurant was opened with Michael Mina on Sunset Strip. Within the next five years, SBE Entertainment group will be expanding beyond the U.S.

Sam is also the owner of the SLS chain of hotels, including SLS Las Vegas, SLS Lux, SLS Beverly Hills, SLS Brickell and SLS South Beach. Also, he owns the Redbury Hotels in Hollywood, Southbeach and New York, all contributing to his net worth. Through the SBE Entertainment group, Sam has also served as the executive producer for films with budgets under $15 million.

Due to his successful career, Sam Nazarian has received numerous awards, and recognitions; in 2006 he was named as one of the “Top 100 Most Powerful People in Southern California” by the magazine West. Also in 2014, he was included in the Fortune`s 40 Under 40 list. In 2009, the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa named Sam into the Board of Airport Commissioners of the Los Angeles World Airports. Furthermore, he received the Hotelier of the Year honors for two consecutive years, by HotelChatter.com.

While Sam and the Nazarian family give back and are heavily involved in business dealings within the U.S., big things are on the horizon. The success of his current venues are about to snowball to different countries. While Sam Nazarian owns the highbrow brands of restaurants and hotels in the U.S., he is about to take his ventures abroad with several expansion goals within the next five years.

SBE, a hotel management company responsible for some of the most buzzed-about hotels and nightlife venues, is expanding. The company has ten newly confirmed deals for hotels, residences, and restaurants in South America, the Middle East, and Asia. By 2021, the company’s portfolio will more than double in size to 50 hotels and residences. Sam Nazarian is a businessman to the core. Capable of making his company and international success. The company has a presence in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and overseas.

Late last year, SBE acquired the Morgans Hotel Group, which owned the Mondrian brand.

Nazarian is now looking to get even bigger. Though he calls SBE a “small lifestyle” company, he is expanding it into places such as Mexico City and Doha in Qatar. “We have a robust pipeline,” Nazarian says. “Our goal is very clear. We want to get 50 hotels open by 2021 which is a big feat for a small lifestyle company. And within those hotels, we are going to be putting in all of our restaurants and lounges. It’s a multiplication effect.”

Nazarian believes that his company will be successful if it continues to provide more than just a place to sleep. “It’s one box and the energy of the--the operations, the continuity of the experience--it’s something that should be managed in harmony,” he says. Many of the biggest hotel players, such as Marriott and Hilton, have created lifestyle brands but Nazarian says she will stand out because it doesn’t stray from that one sector.

“We are focused on that mindset, the culture of service, the culture of being on the cutting edge of delivering a 360-degree approach and not just worrying about heads and beds,” he says. “We feel the lifestyle space is one that Is resonating with both Millennials and the luxury sector. People feel the authenticity of the way these properties are managed.”

The company plans to deliver that approach next month to its new SLS hotel at Baha Mar, the highly-anticipated hotel, entertainment, retail, casino, and dining complex in the Bahamas. The resort had a partial opening this year after many years of delays due to financial issues. “This will be a game-changer in how people view a mega-resort,” he says.

SBE is continuing its expansion in North America with plans to manage an Originals in Los Angeles. SBE has already opened a 270-room Mondrian in Doha, Qatar, its first Middle East property. By 2020, it plans to open an SLS Doha with 200 rooms, 100 residences, 50 services apartments, and three restaurants.  The company has plans to open two new properties in Dubai, including a Mondrian in 2019 and Delano in 2018. SBE will also manage the The Sanderson Ortakӧy, which will launch in Istanbul.

SBE is also expanding to the south of the United States. In Latin America, SBE will manage SLS Mexico City Pedregal, a 150-room hotel in Mexico City. The new build will open in 2021.The company has received approval for a 300-room hotel in Uruguay, the SLS Punta del Este Residences. SLS Pilar Residences, with 173 residences, will open in 2020 in Buenos Aires. The Mondrian brand will make its debut in Mexico in Playa del Carmen with a 100-room condominium hotel expected to open in 2021.On the restaurant side, the company is going to expand its popular Umami Burger brand into Mexico. Deals are also in discussions in the Gulf region, including Dubai.

“It’s shown that a smaller lifestyle company can become a global ambassador for some of these amazing U.S.-based brands,” he says. Exciting times are ahead for Nazarian and SBE entertainment. If he can expand to this level, his will be one of the firsts to successfully do so as a smaller lifestyle company. Their commitment to excellence is evident in their current successful venues, entertainment, and overall business model. From philanthropy to previous business successes, to future business success, Nazarian has had quite the portfolio of successful brands, entertainment, and realizing how to bring two good things together to make something even more fabulous.

Sam has been married to Emina Cunmulaj, an Albanian-American model, since 2015; the couple has one child together. Nazarian married model Emina Cunmulaj in June 2015 in Mexico. She has been featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar (U.K.) and Vogue (Mexico). The wedding took place at the St. Regis Punta Mita with white rose peddles as they walked down the aisle. At the rehearsal dinner, the couple was serenaded by the flamenco band and the Gipsy Kings. Their cake was seven-tier and reached approximately 5 ft. Tall (provided by L.A.’s Royal Cakes). At the outdoor reception, they featured a firework display ended the three days elaborate celebration. The Nazarian family immigrated to the United States following the Iranian Revolution.

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