General Mediterranean Holding: More Titles and Honours Than Your Average Captain of Industry

Founder and chairman of General Mediterranean Holding (GMH), Sir Nadhmi Auchi, began his career with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil after graduating from Baghdad’s Mustansiriyah University.

Le Royal Beirut

Le Royal Beirut

He rose through the ranks to become director of the ministry’s planning and development, then, in January 1979, struck out to start his own business — in Luxembourg. The new entity went under the name of General Mediterranean Holding (now Société de Gestion de Patrimoine Familial). Initial capital was just $2m. With a flair and acumen for business, Auchi soon saw opportunity — and realised that it was time to operate internationally.

Over the next 40 or so years, the GMH Group has transformed into a multi-billion-dollar asset-based multinational corporation with a paid-up capital equivalent to $510m. It has followed a strict philosophy of ploughing back profits into the group.

The GMH Group has had significant investments in banks; it was the largest independent shareholder in Banque Paribas, where each acquired 50 percent of Banque Continentale Du Luxembourg. The group owned banks, and civil engineering company Soludec SA. It was involved in meat production, aviation, the manufacture of generic medicines (200+ licences).

Sir Nadhmi Auchi

Sir Nadhmi Auchi

The GMH group now has presence in 22 countries, with some 11,000 personnel. Sir Nadhmi’s philanthropic raison’ d’être is to counter the sometimes-negative way Arabs are portrayed in the West, and to bridge the gap between British Arabs and their host community. He presides over the not-for-profit Anglo Arab Organisation, incorporated in England and Wales.

The group objective is the diversification and consolidation of its activities via investments and organic growth. Much of GMH’s business is in the hospitality sector — it owns or manages 24 hotels some of which are under Le Royal Hotels brand. It also operates in the leisure, manufacturing, real estate, international trade, pharmaceutical, healthcare, industrial, publication, media and power generation sectors.

Sir Nadhmi Auchi was given his personal Coat of Arms by Queen Elizabeth II. On General Mediterranean Holding’s 20th anniversary, he received a framed print of Westminster signed by 130 politicians, including then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, William Hague, and Charles Kennedy. He was the first Arab to receive honorary Freedom of the City of London.

He was made a member of the order of Knight Commander in a ceremony in St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, in recognition of his contribution to charitable, humanitarian and inter-religious endeavours.

The Royal Order of Francis l, the highest award of the Knight’s Grand Cross, was delivered to Sir Nadhmi Auchi at a ceremony in London. His other honours include Officer of the Order of the Tunisian Republic, the Grand Cordon of the Order of Independence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George, the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, the First Grade of the Lebanese Order of Merit, and a Commander of the National Order of the Cedar.

Philanthropic support includes donations to the Royal Society of Medicine, the Auchi Dialysis Centre, Hammersmith Hospital London, ambulances, medical equipment and clothing for disaster relief, and the Nadhmi Auchi fellowship programme at the American University in Cairo.

Donations by Sir Nadhmi Auchi and companies controlled by him include the Children’s Heart Foundation, the International College of Surgeons, the Pakistan Earthquake Relief Commission, educational trust Zindagi, the Graham Layton Trust, Kingston Cancer Hospital, the British Red Cross, Medical Aid for Palestine, and ambulances and medical equipment for Lebanon.

Sir Nadhmi was vice-chair of the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 1996 to 2000.

He is not alone in his achievements when it comes to the GMH fold; the boards and principal subsidiaries consist of prominent and accomplished individuals from the world of finance and commerce; all are leaders in their respective fields.

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