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Secret Life of Hussain Ali Habib Sajwani

Secret Life of Hussain Ali Habib Sajwani

Hussain Ali Habib Sajwani : the man behind Damac

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September 22, 2008 7:31 by



Charming, courteous and entertaining. A honest man with appalling business judgment. Too ambitious for his own good.

These are a few of the descriptions, offered by those who know or work with him, of 54-year-old Hussain Sajwani, the chairman of Damac Group, the Dubai-based conglomerate that claims to operate in over 20 countries. Its real estate development arm, Damac Properties, calls itself the largest private developer in the region, with 670 million square feet of properties worth over $45bn.

Damac has ridden the Dubai boom, but its rise has been fraught with trouble. With fears of a real estate correction looming, the company is coming under increasing scrutiny over delays, cancellation of projects, problems in completed buildings (of which there are few), and questions over financing. Many are looking to Sajwani for answers.

In responses provided in writing to questions submitted by Kipp Report, Sajwani says he takes the criticism seriously, but he also seems to chalks much of it up to envy. “Isn’t it human nature to be envious?” he asks.

The Life

Born in 1954, Hussain Ali Habib Sajwani grew up in Dubai, according to a biography provided by his company. His father owned a watch shop in the creek-side Deira district and also handled small real estate projects in Dubai. But Sajwani did not want to join the family business. Instead, he wanted to be a white-collar professional. He wanted a degree, and he wanted to work regular hours.

From his official biography and previously published interviews, a picture emerges of an ambitious young man who bucked the expectations foisted upon him by family and teachers. By his own admission, Sajwani was a lazy student, graduating 26th in a class of 30. He went to join a medical college in Baghdad on a government scholarship, but he dropped out before completing his degree.

He showed determination in other ways, however. While in Iraq, he would allegedly smuggle goods like toothpaste and soap from across the border in Kuwait for pocket money. Eventually, he announced to his father that he wanted to go to the US to study. His father refused, yet Sajwani insisted. When his father asked him how he would finance his education, the headstrong young man said he would do so by working in bars. His father, a religious man, feared his rebellious son might actually do so, so he gave him the money needed for his American education.

Sajwani took up a course in industrial engineering and economics from the University of Washington. After finally earning a degree in 1981, he began his working life at Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Limited (Gasco), with the understanding that after he completed two years of work, the company would sponsor his MBA.

As often happened with Sajwani, events took a different course. He soon decided he would rather work for himself than be tied down to a state-run firm, and shortly after starting work at Gasco, he launched his own catering business, Damac Food Services. By 1982, the year Sajwani turned 28, Damac was off the ground. So the official history goes.

However, other reports tell a different story: The company Sajwani started in 1982 was not called Damac at all, these reports say, but a different firm altogether in which he lost most of the Dh20m sunk into it due to stiff competition from a Saudi rival, Mawarid.

According to this alternative history, Sajwani then invested in a company in Oman, which also failed. He finally started making significant amounts of money in the stock market in 1997. He returned to the US during this period, but took a hit when the dot-com bubble burst.

In 2002, with Dubai on the cusp of a property explosion, Sajwani began dabbling in real estate by buying and re-selling property from mega-developer Emaar. Questions have been raised as to how he made so much money so quickly. (In addition to being the chairman of Damac, Sajwani now heads Al Anwar Ceramic Tiles, Al Jazeira Services and Al Amana Building Materials in Muscat, and Al Ahlia Insurance in Bahrain.) Answering the question last year in a TV interview on Al Jazeera, Sajwani replied that Damac has been around for 25 years.



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9 Comments

  1. Angelina on September 29, 2008 9:23 pm

    Hi there,
    This is to let you know more about the difficulties that an employee is facing in Damac properties.No proper actions taken even if his or her grievance is informed.Buerocracy ,Politics all factors make an employee frustrated by working with this company.I was an employee with Damac properties and have some how escaped from the torture upon Gods grace recently .I was an employee with damac properties working with a department which is lead by a female-Director .People from outside finds this as the best department in the company.But Im sure the employees in this department are totally frustrated with her tortures,she screams to everyone as if all the employees are her servants and if she finds that the staff is a bit strong then she will start taking revenge in her own ways and finally the employee will end up in giving his or her resignation.I believe the higher ups are aware about her charecter but she is so cunning and smart enough .I strongly believe if the HR try to have a confidential talk with this department junior employees and if the HR is supportive they can get the sam,e feedback .Lets see what defined in the HR policies of Damac is true or not .I challenge ,nothing will happen or no actions will be taken against this lady.My advice to the job seekers and people who have got an offer in your hand and dreaming about a career growth with this company specially this departmnet.Salary hikes are just labels which a person can achieve if this lady finds him dumb enough to bear all the shits from her.Please rethink ,Its hard to escape as its a trap and the we get a ban fr 1 year if we quit at any time.

     
  2. ahmed elhaddad on November 4, 2008 12:28 pm

    LOL

    what is happen to Angelina Now?

    hello we are in arab world

     
  3. maria on November 5, 2008 11:02 am

    angelina, read your post. There are at least a thousand people who agree that damac is nothing but a turture cell. People kept crying for an hr department. They hired the best hr guy in the country but he too became a victim of all the politics. They fired him and the entire hr department this week. Hope damac closes down fast before it spoils more than the thousand current lives it is spoiling.

     
  4. The Don on January 18, 2009 11:26 am

    So I got layed off on 11/11. Still have not had my NOC. Only got my settlement money when I threatened to go to the police after more than 1 month. They still have my passport. It is hard to get a job. Damac have not been helpful at any stage. I have to always chase for my NOC. They always give excuses. When some of the HR persons get layed off, I hope they get to taste their own rude behaviour. If this was the UK, I would have long sued both Hussain Sajwani & Peter Riddoch. They are as corrupt as the company. Even til today staff who still work there don’t get paid on time and neither do ’3rd party’ agents. Damac needs to change its attitude as we didn’t ask to leave. I was bought over from the UK and layed off in under 5months. I was given 5 hours notice and told to pack. How do you explain something like this to your wife & kids who also now live in the ‘land of dreams’.
    Disgusting behaviour by all at the top. Never mind customer service, HR couldn’t give a toss about ex-staff service. They are like robots. You send long winded emails asking what is going on and when my paperwork will be issued and they send back ONE line replies…eventually!

    The non-existent UAE Govt. should have stepped in. The banks froze my money and my account. How do you live? HH, Sheikh Mohd, cries out, “Build it and they will come”. Well, how about giving some assistance to the workers who do build it and sell it. Who, when they lose their jobs, shouldn’t be told that you have ‘only 30 days to stay’ once the company’s cancel your visa.

    No assistance is provided whatsoever. Having now lived here for 12 months, it has become so clear to see that money can be made here, but we, the hard working people, need to be given a chance. Rents so high (why do we have to pay in 1 or 2 chq’s), rest of the world can get by on monthly basis. Inflation running in double figures, roads being dug up everywhere, etc. They say there is no tax, but then what is Salik, also looking to introduce VAT. If you peel the top layer off this country, then you will see what it actually is…a nice clean, un-organized THIRD world state. Dubai makes money from Visa’s & misery of those who are left looking for guidance. I pity this country.

     
  5. Shane on December 22, 2009 7:11 am

    Damac is a good company, as due to economic crisis still this company pays in time to staff, as what i have seen in so many other company which is worse to compare to. what is there to complain about. The only thing is service not so good and staff in outlets are un professional, example in restaurant call Blues, Managers are all idiots and just taking salary for doing nothing, playing games with computers, playing with staffs when customers is dining, no proper rules regulations. How can management fooling around with staff during working hrs? This is a disgrace to the employer.Totally not fair for the company. Even poor personal hygiene Managers in F&B can be employed in Damac, Check it out in Blues then u will know, which is unbelieveble, yakkkk. totally disgusting. Hopefully it will change, coz the restaurant had been a good name for years, the company can afford to pay , why dont pay for a better staff. This should be consider.

     
  6. attary taoufik on February 10, 2010 3:52 pm

    ok let me give you a point about damak , i was an AC mechanic in damac aljazira qatar and i spend 2 years with a diferents nationality in this team , i think it s a good company with a good people who managing services, i m moroccan and i hope to comback a day

     
  7. Shane on February 27, 2010 8:42 pm

    Shane on December 22nd, 2009 at 7:11 am:

    Damac is a good company, as due to economic crisis still this company pays in time to staff, as what i have seen in so many other company which is worse to compare to. what is there to complain about. The only thing is service not so good and staff in outlets are un professional, example in restaurant call Blues, Managers are all idiots and just taking salary for doing nothing, playing games with computers, playing with staffs when customers is dining, no proper rules regulations. How can management fooling around with staff during working hrs? This is a disgrace to the employer.Totally not fair for the company. Even poor personal hygiene Managers in F&B can be employed in Damac, Check it out in Blues then u will know, which is unbelieveble, yakkkk. totally disgusting. Hopefully it will change, coz the restaurant had been a good name for years, the company can afford to pay , why dont pay for a better staff. This should be consider.

     
  8. Nedal Jaber on August 10, 2010 11:08 pm

    Mr. Hussain Sajwani ,
    i have always admired you , since the first day we met.
    Wish you all the best

    Best Regards,

     
  9. GORILLA TREKKING on January 5, 2013 5:55 pm

    great information. Thanks alot

     

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