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Iskandar Safa, a modern businessman

Iskandar Safa

Iskandar Safa is one of those enigmatic, even fascinating, people who do not fit comfortably into any category - not even regarding such basics as nationality. Although usually described as a French businessman of Lebanese origins, he is international. Safa himself has said: 'Lebanon is my country, but I feel at home in France, the US and the UK.' He is a businessman in the broadest sense of the term: an engineer, a CEO, a negotiator, an intermediary, an investor, a shipbuilder, even a political go-between, a veritable wheeler-dealer in the world of international business.

Iskandar's family hails from Ghadir in North Lebanon. It is a well-to-do Maronite Christian family; his father was a civil servant during the French Mandate and the family business profitably dealt in construction contracts with Saudi Arabia. Iskandar was born in 1955 in Beirut. He studied at the American University in Beirut, graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1978. He went on to study Business Administration in Fontainebleau, France (INSEAD), obtaining his Master's degree in 1982.

After graduating, Safa spent some years in Saudi Arabia managing construction projects. Iskandar Safa also established the Triacorp holding company, together with his brother Akram. In this period he discovered his noteworthy talent as a "middle-man", an intermediary able to skilfully and profitably clinch deals regarding high-market international trade and construction contracts. He developed influential and top-level contacts in the Middle East and, indeed, became widely recognised as "a man of influence and a useful contact". His negotiating skills were such that he was requested as the intermediary in the 1986 hostage crisis, when five French citizens were taken hostage by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The situation was successfully resolved thanks to the mediation of Safa; on this dramatic occasion his role was that of liberator rather than intermediary.

The 1990s saw the first move into shipbuilding with the purchase of "Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie" shipbuilders in Cherbourg. The shipyard was floundering but Safa revitalised it; orders began flowing in within two years. In this period he also established, again with brother Akram, the Privinvest international shipbuilding group. In 2007, Safa founded Abu Dhabi Mar (ADM) in partnership with Al Aïn International, and in 2011 Privinvest bought out its partner. Today, Privinvest is one of the major shipbuilding realities in Europe and the Middle East and currently specialises in cutting-edge technologically innovative ships.