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Ex-Merrill president leads dining revolution
Ahmass Fakahany once led board rooms and managed billions of dollars, now he oversees the restaurants his former peers frequent.
Fakahany, who left Merrill Lynch in 2007, and chef Michael White own the Altamarea Group of restaurants, reports Business Insider. In Altamarea's flagship Italian restaurant Marea on Central Park South one can spot hedge funder Dan Loeb, or Bill Ackman, or Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein. The model for Marea is clean and simple; class without the frills; quality without being ostentatious. Post-financial crisis, if you will.
That simple sophistication has been a success, so much so that Altamarea just opened its biggest location yet on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The French Vaucluse serves up escargots, duck and pork terrine, and plenty of truffles. The company now has a total 16 restaurants around the world. Annual revenue has grown from about $3 million in 2008 to more than $50 million. Writes Business Insider:
“Well, he’s certainly mastered Italian, so I’m anxious to see what Michael can do with French cuisine," said Jim Chanos, founder of short-biased hedge fund Kynikos Associates.
The Egyptian-born Fakahany dreamed of a hospitality career while working for Merrill around the world. He started the Merrill Lynch wine collection, and set the entertainment standards for the bank's meetings and dinners. Fakahany met White while dining with clients at the former Soho restaurant Fiamma, and the two hit it off. Since then, the team has hired other reformed-Wall Streeters for their team, such as CFO Arthur Li, who previously worked at J.P. Morgan and in private equity at Wasserstein & Co. It doesn't hurt to be be able to identify with the clients.