The Big Moneymen of Palestine, Inc.

July 1989 – Fortune

A real estate deveoper based in Washington, Mohamed Hadid traces his roots to Daher al-Omar Alziadani, The Bedouin tribesman who used a scimitar to carve Palestine–however briefly–from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Born in Nazareth during the 1948 cold war, Hadid grew up in Damascus and Beirut, where his father–a former literature professor–worked for Voice of America. “My father got a job because he was well educated,” he says. “The Palestine farmers didn’t know anything but farming. When they lost their land, they ended up in refugee camps.”

His father’s transfer to VOA headquarters brought the family to Washington, D.C., when Hadid was 14. After dropping out of a graduate program at MIT, he worked for a time as a draftsman, then on a whim took off for the Greek island of Rhodes. He opened a splashy nightclub that became one of Europe’s trendiest watering holes. In the oil-booming 1970s he plowed his profits into a company that exported construction equipment from the U.S. to Europe and the Middle East.

In 1980 he moved into U.S. real estate, putting up deluxe office buildings in downtown Washington. He developed a shrewd eye for spotting properties that could be rezoned into more valuable parcels. Recently he paid $150 million for the Ritz-Carlton hotels in New York and Washington, and beat out Donald Trump to purchase a prime site for a resort in Aspen, Colorado. Hadid’s philosophy is a variation of the old buy low and sell high. He buys high and sells higher. Says Hadid: “I favor places where land is very expensive. We take expensive sites and make them worth even more.”

Married with two daughters, 5 and 8, Hadid is a devout Moslem who never drinks and who fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. He’s even building a new mosque for Washington’s Moslem community. His lifestyle is as luxurious as his taste in real estate. A seasoned pilot, he flies his Navajo Piper on weekends to Pokety Farms, his 980-acre country estate on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Built by auto magnate Walter Chrysler in the 1920s, Pokety features an immense mam house that can accommodate 200 for dinner, a guest house with its own bowling alley, and a four-hole golf course. Says one of Hadid’s lieutenants: “The caretaker’s home looks like Tara in Gone With the Wind“.

Has his Palestinian heritage spurred him to succeed? “The Palestinians are like the Jews,” says Hadid. “Everything was taken away from them. So they try to become better businessmen to free themselves from the stereotype and build a new life.” With a net worth estimated at $100 million, Hadid should be free indeed.