Entrepreneur Tevfik Arif Forges Political and Business Alliances in a Path to Global Business Success

Tevfik Arif’s ambitions would carry him all over the world and introduce him to some of the most significant business and political leaders of our time.

When Tevfik Arif was a young boy growing up in the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, he dreamt of living in a world surrounded by luxury. To achieve that dream, he realized that it was up to him to build it.

The early years of Tevfik Arif

Arif’s interest in business led him to pursue studies in international relations at the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics. After completing his degree, he began working within the Soviet government at the Ministry of Commerce and Trade as a chief economist and deputy director of the ministry’s Department of Hotel Management.

Through his studies and his early work experience, Arif learned the value of establishing and maintain strong relationships with people. His ability to cultivate these mutually beneficial relationships would allow him to build a successful, diverse global business portfolio.

After 17 years of serving as a civil servant, he entered the private business sector when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. His first successful business venture took him to Kazakhstan where he founded Specialty Chemicals Trading Company, a company that specialized in the import-export of rare metals and raw materials.

While living in Kazakhstan, he also worked under the powerful Reuben brothers who built Trans World Group, one of the largest natural resources companies after the fall of the Soviet Union. With his expansion into the private sector, he was afforded an opportunity to collaborate with new mentors in the form or powerful business leaders who would help him to hone his leadership and negotiating skills.

Tevfik Arif acquired partial ownership in ACCP, a chromium-based chemical plant near the city of Aktobe when Kazakhstan achieved its independence. The sweeping innovations introduced by the new management transformed the company into the number two producing chromium-based chemical plant in the world.

The Central Asian region of Kazakhstan and the surrounding countries is rich in natural resources, providing him with a successful foundation to grow his business interests. He set his sights on other industries with a desire to transform himself into an international entrepreneur.

Expanding his Business Horizons

After his success in the raw materials industry, Tevfik Arif moved to Turkey in 1993. His family was originally Turkish and he had previously owned a Turkish jewelry business. It was in Turkey that he began pursuing a career as a luxury property developer.

Drawing upon his previous experience working within the hotel division of the Soviet government, he began investing in the real estate developments of premium hotels and resorts, including the luxury Hotel Labada situated on the Mediterranean coast in Antalya, Turkey.

He continued to build his property portfolio through investments in high-end real estate developments across Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He had an eye for luxury and opulence and he had a desire to create properties that could be appreciated for their design, quality and ambiance.

The American Real Estate Market

Having outgrown the market in Central Asia, Tevfik Arif wanted to find a new business venture that would provide him with a challenge. In 2001, he founded Bayrock Group LLC, a real estate development firm in the United States. The firm began with modest investments in real estate projects primarily in Brooklyn, including the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza located in Sheepshead Bay.

From his work as a government official and his experience operating business around the world, he recognized that if he were to build a prosperous luxury development firm in the United States, he would need to form positive relationships with local and national political figures.

Residential and commercial real estate development is subject to numerous zoning, building and safety regulations. Many stages of construction also require permits and official approval from local governing bodies. In order to establish these political ties, he sought out prominent officials representing New York City at political and community events and supported the political campaigns of many candidates running for government office.

Arif became acquainted with Hillary Clinton, a Democratic New York Senator at that time, and contributed to her first presidential campaign. He was introduced to then-Democratic New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was instrumental in helping Bayrock obtain special zoning exemptions for their projects.

He also made political contributions to former-Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. For him, like many business leaders, it was important to establish relationships with political leaders at all levels and from all political affiliations in order to ensure the smooth operation of his business and to maintain open communications with elected officials.

Building an Emblem of Luxury in Downtown Manhattan

With the successful completion of commercial and residential projects in Brooklyn, Tevfik Arif began to look for an opportunity to make an investment in premium development projects. He sought out members of the New York City real estate elite to better acquaint himself with the Manhattan world of property development. Arif and Bayrock developed working partnerships with several high-profile luxury real estate developers, providing a wealth of insider information and new investment opportunities for the young company.

Bayrock established their offices within the heart of Manhattan on the 24th floor of Trump Tower. This location put the company’s offices within close proximity to renowned New York City real estate developer Donald Trump, who would later become an important asset to the Bayrock company.

This was before Donald Trump revealed any of his political ambitions. His real estate ventures were no longer returning the same profitability, but he was beginning to become a household name with his popular television show, “The Apprentice.”

He and another prominent New York City real estate entrepreneur, Tamir Sapir, saw this as an opportunity to collaborate with Trump, not for as an investing partner, but to capitalize on his name and transform it into a brand. Bayrock together with the Sapir organization, drew up plans for a hotel-condominium complex that would license the Trump name to their project, contributing an emblem of luxury easily recognized among potential buyers.

Trump SoHo, a $450 million, 46 story hotel and apartment complex located in Hudson Square, would be funded, developed and built by Bayrock and the Sapir Organization, under a licensing and operating contract with the Trump Organization. While Bayrock continued to pursue other luxury property development projects, Trump SoHo, which opened in 2008, would become a symbol of Luxury for Bayrock Group in Lower Manhattan – one of the most prestigious real estate markets in the world.