2006 Honorary Degree Recipient
Said Tawfiq Khoury remains today the indefatigable and vigorous president of Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC), one of the most successful corporations in the world, currently based in Athens, Greece. Over 80, Said Khoury is still active in the daily work of the company, shuttling easily among offices in Athens, Beirut, and London, and engaging directly in a number of Arab issues. From humble beginnings in Lebanon in the early 1950s, CCC has grown from its construction and engineering origins into a dynamic, widely diversified, international organization emphasizing also management, procurement, and investment-with focus on the Middle East region. Ranked today as number 18 worldwide, CCC operates in 40 countries with over 80,000 employees and an annual revenue of $3 billion.
Since studying at AUB in the 1940s, CCC cofounders Said Khoury and his cousin, Hasib Sabbagh (BA '41, honorary doctorate in humane letters, '03), have remained close to the American University of Beirut: the company has employed some 600 AUB graduates. At the 2005 groundbreaking ceremony for the new CCC Scientific Research Building on lower campus, Said Khoury described AUB alumni as the backbone of the company's management, engineers, and professionals. CCC has also traditionally sought employees among the members of the widely dispersed Palestinian community and nationals from the entire Middle East region. In September 2005 about four-fifths of CCC's 8,000 permanent engineering and management staff members were Palestinians, Lebanese, or Jordanians.
Said Khoury was born in northern Palestine in 1923. He grew up in the town of Safed, where he was nourished in an atmosphere of strong family ties, pervasive moral influence, and a deep sense of ethnic and cultural diversity. After attending St. Luke's School in Haifa, he followed his cousin Hasib Sabbagh to AUB, where both studied engineering. On returning home, each founded a small construction company in Palestine.
After the establishment of Israel in 1948, both men fled with their families to Lebanon, where they began working on construction projects. Both young men plunged into their first task, the Tripoli airport, literally with their bare hands, living in containers and working long hours, motivated by the catastrophic expulsion from their homeland. Khoury said he worked hard to "boost his father's morale. One of my main concerns," he said, "was to make good money so my father, who had lost everything in Palestine, would feel nothing had changed." The vast conglomerate which eventually emerged from these rough beginnings bears to this day the strong influence of family. Today members of the immediate family, under the leadership of President Said Khoury, remain at the helm of CCC. Hasib Sabbagh, who suffered a stroke in 2002, is honorary chairman; his two sons, along side the three sons of Said Khoury, work closely in the management and direction of the company from offices in Athens, London, and the Middle East. Said Khoury remains closely involved in policy making and strategy. In the early 1950s a contract to construct a storage yard for oil pipes in Homs, Syria, for the Iraq Petroleum Company introduced the young engineers to the world's largest construction company of that time, the Bechtel Group. The connection remained solid for many years, spear-heading the CCC's extraordinary transformation from a small subcontracting construction company into the international giant it is today. CCC soon moved its activities to Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine. In 1952 the company moved with Bechtel to Yemen as a subcontractor working on the Aden refinery-the roots of CCC corporate family culture were planted. Each new local station was initially composed of immediate family, area office staff, and project teams, mostly Lebanese and other Arabs recruited in Beirut. In 1955 the fledgling company established itself in Kuwait, where Said settled with his family, and the company moved from laying oil and gas pipelines and building bridges, roads, airports, ports, and sports facilities to mechanical engineering projects: the construction of oil refineries, petrochemical industries, electricity, desalination, deep ocean extraction platforms, and underwater engineering. Eventually CCC, with headquarters in Athens following the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, would spread further into Africa and North America.
CCC has become something of an icon among large industries. Said Khoury based his corporate policy on the welfare, satisfaction, and participation of the employee. Concern for personnel-the family, the team, from engineers to cooks-has driven the company throughout its history. Said Khoury told CCC's biographer that for over 50 years he had practiced his conviction that "personnel management amounts to the single most important one of our responsibilities." CCC's strength, the World Economic Forum reported in 2005, is based on employee loyalty and competence, flexible management, focus, dynamism, and close relationships with clients and even with competitors. Management always gives priority to quality, scheduling, and commercial acumen. From the very beginning, CCC has prided itself on delivering quality work on time or even ahead of schedule.
Khoury has invested widely in Palestine. CCC, a "huge potential engine" to help create the prosperity of Palestine, has spent more than $80 million in the territories since 1990. In May of this year Hasib Sabbagh and Said Khoury made a five million dollar donation to improve the living conditions of the suffering Palestinians. CCC is developing gas fields off the coast of Gaza, and in 1993 the company funded a $10 million program to train Palestinian engineers. Halted by ongoing violence, a $65 million Gaza City seaport project is still on the books. In 1999 Khoury signed a $150 million agreement to build the first Palestinian plant to power Gaza and the West Bank, and despite the escalation of conflict, the plant opened in 2002. Khoury is currently chairman of the Palestinian Electric Company.
A former director of the Palestine National Fund, and a major shareholder in the Arab Palestinian Investment Company, Khoury has also donated money to Nablus and Al Quds universities. In 2004 his Said Khoury Information Technology Centre of Excellence opened at Al-Quds University to train IT students and users to promote state- of-the-art IT in the business community.
Said Khoury is also involved in a number of social, philanthropic, and welfare organizations such as the Palestinian Welfare Association, the Institute for Palestine Studies, and the Spafford Children's Centre for disadvantaged children in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He supports Columbia University's Edward Said Chair of Arab Studies, its School of International and Public Affairs, the University of the Pacific's School of Engineering and Computer Science, and American Near East Refugee Aid. Honored at a 2004 ANERA meeting, Khoury said, "We urgently need to move from destruction to construction," something CCC and Said Khoury have been doing in the region for more than half a century.
Said Khoury is governor of the Arab Monetary Fund, and serves as chairman of the Palestinian Businessmen's Organization, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH), and the International Business Group. A member of the board of trustees of the Bethlehem Foundation of Washington, DC, he is also a member of the boards of directors of Intoil e.c. Bahrain, Canvest Corporation N.V. Canada, the Arab Life and Accident Insurance Company, and the Jordan and Jerusalem Development & Investment Company Ltd.
Said Khoury's long and successful career in engineering, construction, and investment has been widely recognized by many medals of merit and honor from various parts of the world. He received the Legion of Merit from the President of Lebanon in 2004 and the Medal of Merit from the AUB Alumni Association Engineering Chapter in 2001. In 2001 he also received an Honorary Shield from the Annual Congress for Investment and Capital Arab Group for 50 years of successful relations between a model company and its employees.