Tevfik Arif worked in the government for 17 years before he embarked on a private business venture that took him from Kazakhstan to Turkey and the United States.
The collapse of the Soviet Union presented millions of people in today’s Russia and surrounding countries with unprecedented opportunities. Long-time government employee Tevfik Arif was quick to seize his chance and become an entrepreneur during the period of privatization that followed.
Tevfik Arif, who is of Turkish origin, grew up in Soviet Kazakhstan with his parents and brothers, aspiring to achieve success in the world of business and economics.
While other kids played football or played with dolls, Tevfik Arif enjoyed reading about business strategy and economic theory.
These interests followed him throughout his childhood and prompted him to study International Relations at the Moscow Trade and Economics Institute.
After graduating, Tevfik Arif took on a job at the Soviet Ministry of Commerce and Trade – a career path that was very popular among Soviet youths. It was seen as prestigious to work for the government and there were few options in the private sector.
Arif worked within the Soviet government for 17 years. He was promoted multiple times. He rose to the position of the deputy head of the Ministry of Commerce and Trade’s Hotel Management Department.
Tevfik Arif seizes his chance
At the beginning of the 1990s, the Soviet Union dissolved. The people and former Soviet republics were introduced to a new world on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Tevfik Arif was part of a wave of young, skilled workers who seized the new opportunities and transitioned from the public sector to private industry.
In the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Arif founded several of his own companies in the fields of luxury real estate development, food, minerals, natural resources, imports and exports, among other ventures.
His many businesses provided him with an extensive network of national and international stakeholders.
That network would eventually lead to Tevfik Arif moving to Turkey in 1993, where he expanded his real estate and business portfolio.
There, he quickly became one of the pioneering forces behind the all-inclusive hotels and opened the luxurious Labada Hotel Antalya.
Tevfik Arif meets one of the world’s most powerful men
Tevfik Arif eventually stayed in Turkey for eight years and then moved to New York City in 2001.
The move happened because Tevfik Arif wanted to be closer to the American branch of his family, but he also looked for new business opportunities.
After settling in in the Big Apple, he established the luxury real estate development company Bayrock Group. The company began operating small to mid-size development projects such as renovating the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza in the Sheepshead area of Brooklyn.
The company’s initial success combined with Arif’s ambition meant large-scale development projects were the natural next step for Bayrock.
To accompany the change in Bayrock’s strategy, Arif moved the firm’s headquarters to the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City – one of the most prestigious addresses in the world.
There, he made business acquaintances with one of the most powerful men in the world, Donald Trump.
Trump SoHo is born
The proximity of Bayrock Group and The Trump Organization would soon lead to the development of a lucrative business partnership.
Bayrock Group and the Sapir Organization were already working on a project on Spring Street in New York City’s hip SoHo area. Adding the Trump Organization to the project would deliver the glamour and prestige Arif sought.
While Bayrock Group was still a fairly new player in the American real estate market, the Trump Organization was a veteran and had lots of brand recognition.
The Bayrock Group founder presented the Sapir Organization and the Trump Organization with a plan that would give the Trump Organization 18% equity in the building in exchange for using the Trump name in the title of the construction. Bayrock and Sapir would be responsible for funding, development and construction.
All three partners signed the deal, marking the beginning of Trump SoHo.
An architectural pearl by world-renown designers
The construction of the building began in 2006 and two years later, Trump SoHo was ready for its inauguration.
It consisted of 46 floors of apartments, hotel rooms, high-scale restaurants and bars, event and banquet halls, spa facilities, and an outdoor pool. To top it all off, all stories featured floor-to-ceiling windows providing unparalleled views of the city.
While the world-renown Handel Architects was responsible for the design of the exterior and skeleton of Trump SoHo, Rockwell Group was tasked with the interior design.
Handel Architects is, among other projects, known for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
Rockwell Group has designed several luxurious hotels, restaurants and casinos around the world, and the company, for instance, furnished Trump SoHo with the exclusive Italian brand Fendi Casa.
Trump SoHo can be found on Spring Street today, but Bayrock no longer owns the building. The project would mark the first and last building of Bayrock Group and the Trump Organization’s collaboration. The companies parted ways, and Arif has since retired from his family’s business.