2008 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Do your best; pray for the rest."
Hadi Makarechian was born in Iran, in 1948. His family was among the wealthiest in Iran. His family owned a real estate construction and development company that was instrumental in carrying out the Shah of Iran's ambitious program to build new infrastructure, military projects, and thousands of homes.
Hadi attended private schools and came to the United States, at age 16, to attend college at the State University of New York. While a student, he met and married his wife, Barbara. After graduating in 1972, they returned to live in Iran, where Hadi immersed himself in his family's various enterprises and enjoyed family life with the birth of their two sons, Paul and Cyrus, among Iran's privileged upper class. In describing his life, he wrote, 'I had no concept of financial insecurity or want. In terms of wealth and lifestyle, our lives were regal in a way that is difficult for native-born Americans to really understand.'
However, this world came crashing to a close with the exile of the Shah, the return of Ayatollah Khomeini in January 1979, and the revolution and regime change. The new regime blacklisted companies and individuals who had worked for the Shah's government or the United States. Within a short time, Khomeini's regime seized the Makarechian family's holdings literally at gunpoint. They were branded as 'puppets of the old regime and CIA agents' and targeted for execution. Hadi's cousin was executed by the revolutionaries on his way to work. Execution orders were then issued for other family members. Hadi was able to flee with his wife and children to the United States, but they left virtually everything behind. Mr. Makarechian recalls that he went from a life of immense wealth to 'living with my in-laws, without a job, without a car, and with no prospects.' He saw three options for the future: to wait for the Shah's return, to wallow in depression, or to count his blessings and act as if he were just starting out after college. He chose the latter and started working with his hands, taking construction, painting, and landscaping jobs to provide for his family. Mr. Makarechian recalled that 'we scrimped and saved and got by. The most important thing was that we were safe and together as a family.'
After a time, Mr. Makarechian was given the opportunity to participate in the development of a 54-unit oceanfront condominium project. As part of the agreement, he received ownership of six units when the project was finished. This started a chain of acquisitions that were leveraged for greater acquisitions. As he continued to prosper, Mr. Makarechian moved his family to Washington, D.C., and then later on to California, where he founded a few development companies. In less than two decades, one of his companies has built and sold more than 30,000 homes in California and the Southwest. Currently, another of his companies is developing Banning Lewis Ranch - a massive 23,000-acre master-planned community of 75,000 homes and 75 million square feet of office, shopping, and industrial space in Colorado Springs. He is also Chairman of Makar Properties, which is run by his sons, Paul (CEO) and Cyrus (Executive Vice President). Makar is a construction and development company based in Newport Beach with assets located throughout Southern California, Texas, Florida, and Colorado with over $10 billion in development projects. Makar creates amenity-rich communities and resort destinations including the 5-Star, 5-Diamond St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point, California, with more than 400 rooms located on 172 acres including the oceanfront Monarch Beach Golf Links.
Mr. Makarechian's philanthropic interests include Chapman University, where he serves on the Board of Trustees, and the State University of New York, U.B., where he is a member of the SEAS Dean's Council and recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award and Delta Society. He has also provided ongoing charitable support to many organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs, MiOcean, HomeAid America, and the Boy Scouts of America to name a few. Mr. Makarechian is a certified turbo jet pilot and a proud member of O.C. Sheriff Aero Squadron and the Sheriff Reserves program since 2004. His passions include horseback riding, flying, tennis, and snowboarding as well as spending time with his family and friends.