When Ahmass Fakahany’s career came to an end at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Corporate in 2008, no one would have thought that he would leave Wall Street for good; yet, despite all speculations, after a 21-year career, he walked away to run his own restaurant.
The Egyptian-American was born in Cairo, only to leave at the young age of four. He then traveled with his parents to Switzerland and then England, where he spent most of his childhood, but at the age of 17, the family finally settled in the United States.
Although he was interested in the hospitality business from an early age, he decided to build a career in business, ending up on Wall Street, where he ultimately became Chief Operating Officer and President of the Merril Lynch Group.
For the next two decades, Fakahany enjoyed a lucrative, yet controversial career as a financier, spending the first nine years in Asia and then traveling between London and New York for the rest of his tenure.
When Merill Lynch came crashing down after the financial crisis of 2007-2008, Fakahany was sacked along with other top-notch executives. His last day in Wall Street was on the 1st of February, 2008.
“I have a lot of regrets, and there are things I wish we would have done,” Mr. Fakahany said to the New York Times. “There are no heroes in the Merrill story.”
As thousands declared bankruptcy in 2008, many thought that Fakahany would retire early, or perhaps find another job on Wall Street, but instead, the 49-year-old finance-savvy banker decided to invest most of his fortune in the risky business of restaurants and hospitality.
In the restaurant game, you either go big or go home, and going big is exactly what Fakahany did. In New York, industry experts put the failure rate of restaurants at anywhere between 60 and 80 percent. In fact, most close doors in their first year, but for 11 consecutive years, his business has only grown bigger.
Cooperating with New York celebrity chef, Michael White, Fakahany went on to build a restaurant empire. The two men now run the acclaimed Manhattan restaurant, Marea, as well as Ai Fiori, a cozy joint at the high-end Setai Fifth Avenue Hotel. They have even expanded to Hong Kong, opening Al Molo in 2010.
With White handling the gastronomical part of the business and Fakahany in charge of the financials, the two men established the renowned Altamarea Group, which, in less than a decade, has become a household name. Today the two men operate 15 restaurants across the world.
If Fakahany knows one thing, it’s business. In an interview with The National last year, he stated that the one piece of advice he would give to his younger self is to diversify earlier, and now at the age of sixty, he is doing just that. In 2017, he founded Atelier House Hospitality, a New York-based hospitality consultancy firm with offices in New York and Dubai.
Fakahany has brought the savviness of Wall Street to the grueling restaurant industry, and it seems that this blend of his worked for the best.