Inside Tevfik Arif: The International Property Developer Behind Donald Trump’s SoHo Tower
Demonstrating great perseverance and ambition, international entrepreneur and investor,Tevfik Arif, has built a global business empire.
When Tevfik Arif set his sights on New York City, he relied heavily on his experience as a global business entrepreneur to establish a foothold in the city’s competitive real estate market. The Turkish-Kazakh industrialist and property investor had already established himself in Europe and Central Asia, but the US market offered a new challenge for the seasoned businessman.He understood that in order to succeed, he would have to build relationships with leaders in business and politics, who would provide access to investment opportunities, offer an abundance of advice and enable him to pursue his business ambitions. Arif’s education and former work in the public sector had taught him the value of networking and the importance of cultivating alliances with powerful figures.
Tevfik Arif’s Early Years
Tevfik Arif was born in 1953 to Turkish parents in the Former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. He is the second oldest in a family of four sons. He earned a degree in international relations from the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics.
Upon completing his studies, Arif began his career working within the government’s Hotel Management Department, a division of the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Commerce and Trade. He served as the division’s chief economist before being promoted to the role of deputy head of the department. In total, he spent 17 years working for the government of the Former Soviet Union.
In addition to the vast connections he made through his work in the government ministry, Arif gained a wealth of knowledge about luxury property and hotel management. He would later pursue business ventures in the sector including the development of a luxury hotel and resort in Turkey.
Arif Enters the Business World
In 1991, Arif left the public sector to pursue private business interests. At that time, there was widespread privatization of industry and property during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Arif and his brother capitalized on this opportunity and acquired assets in the raw metals and natural resources sector.
Arif and his brother became the owners and operators of a chromium plant, Aktyubinsk Chromium Chemicals Plant (ACCP), located near Aktobe, Kazakhstan. The plant has become a world-leading producer of chromium. The city of Aktobe is a hub of Central Asia’s mining industry. A third of the world’s chromium, which is an essential ingredient in the production of stainless steel, is mined and refined in the region.
Arif held advisory and management positions for other companies operating in mining, metals and natural resources. He also founded the Specialty Chemicals Trading Company, an import/export firm specializing in chemicals and other raw materials, further expanding his presence in the sector. These businesses would serve as the foundation of Arif’s ambitious plans to develop luxury properties around the world.
Tevfik Arif’s Real Estate Developments
His early real estate development investments were focused primarily in Central Asia – in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey. In 2001, Arif established Bayrock Group LLC – a new property investment, development and management firm – in New York City. The firm’s early projects were small to mid-scale commercial properties and included a shopping center located in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Soon, Arif began looking for opportunities to grow Bayrock Group into a prominent fixture of the New York City luxury property market. The firm established an office in the iconic Trump Tower located on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. This close proximity to the Trump Organization soon led to the development of a working relationship between the two firms.
Bayrock began negotiations with Donald Trump’s Organization to develop and build a high-class luxury hotel-condominium complex in Manhattan. The Trump SoHo tower – which was announced in an episode of Trump’s television show, The Apprentice – would be built by Bayrock and their partner the Sapir Organization under a licensing and operating agreement with the Trump Organization. Tamir Sapir, the leader of Sapir Organization and a self-made billionaire immigrant from Georgia, was a powerful financier that Arif had established a business alliance with.
Under this agreement, Trump would not contribute his own capital to the tower’s construction, but the group would pay Trump for the use of his name – a symbol of luxury – and pay the organization for the management and operation of the finished complex. The Trump SoHo Tower cost around $450 million to construct and was completed in 2008. The final complex features 391 units and stands 46 stories high.
After Trump SoHo
Bayrock Group and the Trump Organization pursued additional development projects under similar licensing terms in Florida and Arizona, however, these projects were never completed. The downturn in the property market in 2008 led Bayrock and Trump to end their working relationship.
Today, Tevfik Arif has retired from the daily operations from his family’s company. However, he remains an important advisor on business and strategy. He has also made contributions to charitable causes that cater to local communities and promote public health.
Arif has always been a private person, preferring to stay out of the spotlight. Throughout his career, he has tried to his business connections to help his family, friends and community. From his early years growing up in Soviet Kazakhstan to the world of luxury real estate in New York City, Arif has been an ambitious individual, demonstrating the perseverance necessary to succeed in competitive business markets.
Arif has expanded his business across international borders. His companies span multiple diverse industries including mining, natural resources, commodities trading, sports, construction, property investment and development, and real estate.