American University of Beirut

Hasib J. Sabbagh

Hasib J. Sabbagh, builder, engineer, philanthropist, art collector, real estate enthusiast, and billionaire, began his rise to industrial fame and fortune with a $1,000 loan from an uncle in 1943. Born in Safed, Palestine into a Christian family which owned a fishery business with a Jewish family, he lost his father at age 13. Sabbagh attended the Arab College in Jerusalem and graduated from AUB in 1941 with a BE in civil engineering.

When he returned to Haifa after graduation, he used his uncle?s loan to launch the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) with the help of various municipal contacts. One hundred apartments for the Haifa municipality and the headquarters of the Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC) were his first major projects.

Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 Sabbagh fled Haifa and settled in Beirut; with two partners, he started all over again.  One of his partners, brother-in-law and cousin Said Khoury, (AUB, '78) is president and 50 percent owner of CCC.

A unique business opportunity followed: Sabbagh met Stephen Bechtel, son of the founder of the Bechtel Group. This giant engineering company had signed contracts with the Iraq Petroleum Company to build two large pipelines. As the start of a long relationship between the two companies, Bechtel employed Sabbagh as a sub-contractor to build workers' barracks. Since these early beginnings, the two companies have worked jointly on more than 30 projects. CCC and Bechtel have shared construction tasks in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi.  CCC also operates in Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the West Bank.

Sabbagh is currently chairman and 50 percent owner of the Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company International (CCCI), ranked twenty-eighth of 225 worldwide contracting firms. The business focuses primarily on construction of roads, airports, pipelines, refineries, harbors, and water treatment plants. Expansion is ongoing. CCCI has moved into Africa (Guinea-Bissau), Connecticut in the US, and Malaysia, where with a French company it is constructing a petro-chemical plant.

A generous philanthropist, Hasib Sabbagh has retained a long-lasting relationship with AUB. After the tragic death of his wife Diana in 1978, the foundation Sabbagh set up in her honor funded the basic sciences in the region and at AUB. The ongoing fund maintained and equipped the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Building, faculty development, graduate students, and the training of teachers in the basic sciences. Today the fund supports Middle East Medical Association (MEMA) lectureships, academic programs in the basic sciences, improvement of basic sciences curricula, annual workshops, and research. Sabbagh's philanthropy in the Middle East extends to Bir Zeit University on the West Bank, where the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Center housing the fine arts collections, the Al-Qumariah Art Gallery, program offices, and a media center opened in 1999. Sabbagh has served as chairman of the Palestinian Students Fund and as deputy chairman of the Health Care Organization of the West Bank and Gaza.

Sabbagh's main interests are Renaissance art and tapestries?and, philanthropy.  In addition to funding buildings and programs at universities in the Middle East, Sabbagh, the financial and spiritual founder of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, has funded a number of similar centers for Middle Eastern studies in universities across the United States, notably at Harvard University, Eureka College, the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

At Rice University in Houston, Texas, Sabbagh was honored in 1997 at the James A. Baker III Institute. Thanking Sabbagh for his support of the institute, Baker said, He's left his indelible mark on everything he's touched in his life. He's done that against immense odds. Hasib has moved from being a Palestinian refugee to become a respected citizen of the world.

Sabbagh, now 82, has always been perceived first and foremost as a devoted family man.  He now lives in New York with his daughter Sana, a member of the AUB Board of Trustees.  A biographical tribute, edited by Mary Jane Deeb and Mary E. King, Hasib Sabbagh: From Palestinian Refugee to Citizen of the World, published by the University Press of America in 1996, records his lifetime achievements in construction and philanthropy, and includes testimonials by members of his family, friends, and such notable individuals as President Jimmy Carter; Robert Stone, chairman of the board of Harvard University; Walid Khalidi of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Columbia University Professor Edward Said; American University Professor Clovis Maksoud; George Shultz, businessman and former US secretary of state; Ray R. Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum Company and currently member of AUB?s Board of Trustees; David Rockefeller of the Council on Foreign Relations; and former Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy.

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