Iranians Thrive in Business, Embrace Philanthropy, Politics Orange County Business Journal Monday, July 25, 2005 By Sherri Cruz

Nicole Jamali went to Stanford University, is a doctor of internal medicine and has her own practice in Aliso Viejo. You could say ambition runs in Jamali's family. Her sister also is a doctor. Her brother is an engineer in Silicon Valley. For Iranian-Americans, achievement is expected, according to Jamali. "It's cultural," she said. "You're supposed to be the best of the best. You're either an engineer or a doctor, or else you're nothing." That way of thinking has made Iranian-Americans, many refugees from their country's 1979 revolution or their offspring, one of the most thriving immigrant groups in Orange County. An estimated 200,000 people of Iranian descent live in OC, including some 20,000 in Irvine. They include some big executives and philanthropists. There's Hadi Makarechian, chief executive of Newport Beach-based Capital Pacific Holdings Inc., and son Paul Makarechian, head of Makar Properties LLC, also of Newport. Paul Merage, inventor of Hot Pockets, retired to a life of philanthropy here after selling his company to Nestl & #233; SA in

2002. Fariborz Maseeh also came here after selling his Massachusetts technology company to Corning Inc. in 2000. Chief Executive Manouch Moshayedi and others at Santa Ana computer memory products maker SimpleTech Inc. are Iranian. So are Alex Razmjoo and others at Irvine's Procom Technology Inc. In fact, many Iranians work in technology,including several engineers at Irvine chipmaker Broadcom Corp. Vahid Manian, Broadcom's vice president of manufacturing operations, is among them. Iranians are spread throughout the county's economy. Shaheen Sadeghi owns The Lab and The Camp shopping centers in Costa Mesa. Others own grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries serving fellow Iranians. As with Jamali, many are professionals. Big Givers Merage and Maseeh made news this year by giving money to the University of California, Irvine. Merage, cofounder of Chef America Inc., donated $30 million to UC Irvine's business school, which now bears his name. Maseeh, who started electronics company Intellisense Corp., pledged $2 million to UCI for a Persian study center. Maseeh also runs investment firm Picoco LLC in Newport Beach. Iranians see the giving as part of an evolution from the world of

business into education, philanthropy and politics. "It's not a coincidence," said Ali Shakeri, president of mortgage banking company Global Estate Funding in Irvine. "Right now, Iranians are on the path of economics. Usually politics follows economy." Capital Pacific's Makarechian is a big backer of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has hosted him at Makar's St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa. Maseeh has given $10,000 to the governor. Makarechian, Maseeh and other Iranians tend to lean toward Republicans, primarily out of disdain for President Carter's handling of Iran during the last years of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule and the Iranian Revolution. But, like any group, there are no absolutes. Many supported President Clinton. Iranians are "very passionate one way or the other," said Jamali, who describes herself as an independent. Iranians are likely to side with Republicans on business issues, she said, but their history of oppression gives them a liberal social bent. The New Majority, a moderate GOP group, is a fit for some. Maseeh and Capital Pacific's Makarechian are members. Son Paul heads Generation Next, a group for moderate young Republicans. "Iranians are more practical than ideological," Shakeri said. "They

are afraid of extremism." Most Iranians oppose their home county's radical Islamic regime. But their skepticism of extremism also extends to President Bush's labeling of Iran as part of an "axis of evil," Shakeri said. During November's elections, many Iranians backed female Republican Goli Ameri, who challenged Democratic incumbent David Wu for a House seat in Portland, Ore. Ameri lost, but she attracted support from Iranians here, including the Fakhimi family, owners of Newport Beach-based cosmetic store chain Planet Beauty Inc. Shakeri said he is a Democrat and opted not to back Republican Ameri, even if she is Iranian. Jamali said she would be happy to support anyone in Congress who could find Iran on the map. The Fakhimis backed Gov. Schwarzenegger but now worry if he's on the right course. "He started very good, but continuing is the hard part," said Ghobad Fakhimi, chairman of Planet Beauty. Ghobad Fakhimi, the patriarch of the family business, represents the mix of pragmatism and liberal thinking among many Iranians. He's founder of a group to save the Caspian Sea from oil pollution,and a former oilman. He was executive director of Iran's National Iranian Oil Co.

"Oilmen in Iran aren't like oilmen here," he said. Catering to Iranians Many of the county's Iranians serve their brethren. And that's not always easy, said Mohammad Ariarad, owner of the Super Irvine grocery store in Irvine and the Crown Valley Marketplace in Mission Viejo. "Persians are demanding," he said. "That's part of our culture, unfortunately. They want the best at the cheapest prices." (Many Iranians refer to themselves as Persians, which stems from Persia, the Western name for Iran.) "Iranians are used to bargains," said Hossein Hosseini, who heads up the Network of Iranian-American Professionals in OC, a business and social group based in Irvine. Part of it is cultural. There are no fixed prices in Iran, Hosseini said. Irvine is home to several Iranian businesses, such as the Caspian restaurant, Assal bakery and Wholesome Choice, an Iranian-owned supermarket with an international flavor. Shoppers can pick up Iranian newspapers or the Orange County Persian Community Arts & Entertainment magazine at grocery stores. To get up to date on Iranian affairs, they listen to AM 670 Radio Iran in Los Angeles, itself home to many Iranians. There's a big rumor mill because the Iranian community is relatively small, Hosseini said.

Grocer Ariarad, who said he knows about 95% of the community, said Iranians are known for being envious of each other. "It's in our blood," he said. Iranians explaining their culture often use the phrase "It's in our blood." Another thing in their blood: hard work. Ariarad, who works with his wife, said he puts in 100-hour weeks. Sure, he lives in Coto de Caza. But he said he pays for his affluence with his time. Iranians always want more, he said, though sometimes he questions his busy lifestyle. On the weekend, Ariarad said he takes home all the paperwork for the week. He said he's never had time to raise kids. "Nothing comes easy," he said. Ariarad came to the U.S. as a student studying aerospace engineering. While studying, he said he worked at a McDonald's for years, when minimum wage was $2.35 an hour. In 1982, he worked for the city of Anaheim as the parking lot coordinator. When he finally graduated, the aerospace contractors wanted green cards, which he didn't have at the time. So he said he and his brothers opened the Caspian Meat Market. It

took four years for them to make the business profitable, he said. He said he borrowed money from friends and family and bought the Caspian Grill in 1990 and expanded it in 1996. Later, Ariarad closed the failing meat store and sold the restaurant. Then he opened Super Irvine in 1996 as a 5,300 square-foot store. It's now 12,000 square feet. In 2001, he opened Crown Valley Marketplace in Mission Viejo. Sharing Wealth Successful Iranians tend to share their wealth with family, whether here or in Iran, Ariarad said. "We are the type that always share," he said. "It's in our blood." One of the tenets of a typical Iranian family is to make the next generation better. "The goal is to make your family better than you," said Houman Fakhimi, an attorney with his own practice in Santa Ana. "And that is expensive," said his brother, Bahman Fakhimi, chief executive of Planet Beauty, with a laugh. Houman Fakhimi started his law practice with the financial help of his family. "The family support is always there," said Bahman Fakhimi, who also started out at a McDonald's. "We're not hesitant in helping each other."

Iranians also have a knack at blending in with mainstream American culture yet keeping their identity. That's partly because Iran is a multicultural society, with Turks, Afghans, Arabs, Jews and others. Most Iranians are descended from Aryans. "We really enjoy other cultures," Jamali said. Iranians have been called "foreign worshippers," she said. Cultural, Religious Mix Many Iranians here are moderate Muslims, Jews, Christians, or not religious. The bulk of Iranians in OC are Muslim. Los Angeles is a hub for Jewish Iranians, though OC has its share, including Merage. Jamali said her given first name is Mehrnaz. She said she adopted her middle name Nicole,not because others could more easily pronounce it, but because as a doctor it was better to be recognized as a woman, she said. Jamali's fiance is a Midwest farm boy with blond hair and blue eyes, she said. Her brother-in-law is an American Czech. Iranians who have come to the U.S. have blended easier than other newcomers because they are familiar with Western culture, they know English and they are educated, Hosseini said. But Iranians like to celebrate their own culture, Jamali said. "Persians are very much into the good life," she said.

That includes parties and gatherings. The first day of spring, you can find 20,000 or so Iranian-Americans at the William R. Mason Regional Park in Irvine celebrating Iranian New Year. The Wednesday before, ancient Persian tradition dictates jumping over fires to cleanse the spirit. This past year, Jamali said she and her friends and family lit firepits at Newport Beach. "It's just an excuse to party," she said. The Iranian Revolution is the defining, and dividing, event for Iranians. There are two groups: Those who came before the revolution and those who came after. Before the revolution, Iranian parents often sent their kids to the U.S. for an education. After the revolution, people came here to escape radicalism. Many of the Iranians who came to the U.S. before the revolution didn't plan to stay. "My intention was not to come and live here," Shakeri said. The idea was to get an education and go back home. Shakeri eventually went back to Iran but the social strife became unbearable, he said. During the revolution, thousands were massacred and several cities were destroyed, including Shakeri's birth city, he said. After the revolution, middle and upper class Iranians came to the U.S. because they had the means. Others went to nearby countries.

Shakeri said he fled to save his family. Disguised in Arabic dress, he said he changed his name and pretended to be a fisherman. He passed the border and was arrested in the United Arab Emirates, where he said he applied for a temporary visa and was deported to Bahrain to await residency. Ultimately, he became a resident of the United Arab Emirates and brought his family. From there, they were able to emigrate to the U.S., he said. Shakeri said he was attracted to Southern California for its weather, its newness and its schools. He also found Southern California more tolerant than Texas and Oklahoma, where he went to school. "My main home is Southern California," Shakeri said, "Specifically South Orange County." There's one more group of Iranian-Americans,those born and raised here. Iranian youth who grew up in America are as "American as American can be," Hosseini said. Throughout high school, they resist the community, he said. They hardly speak Farsi, Iran's language. But once they go to college they seek out their fellow Iranians. "At the same time, when they're hungry they go have Persian food," Hosseini said. Generational Concerns

But the relatively easy life that the parents have provided for the children causes some elders to worry. When Ariarad's niece graduated from UCI, he congratulated the parents. The parents are the ones who worked hardest to send their kids to school, he said. The younger generation doesn't have the same values, Hosseini said. "They're raised differently, more comfortably," Ariarad said. "If I had kids, I'd make them work at McDonald's. People need that." Lawyer Houman Fakhimi, who now has a 3-year old daughter, said passing on the culture is easier if the younger generation learns the language. He said he is teaching his daughter Farsi. But preserving the culture is going to be tough, he said. The hopes are that the new Persian cultural center at UCI will go a long way toward helping. The center, now searching for a director, is named the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, after the revered Dr. Jordan, who was a 42-year president of the Alborz school in Tehran. Technology entrepreneur Maseeh, founder of the center, attended Alborz. The center has created a buzz in the community, said Planet Beauty's Bahman Fakhimi. The center could be a way for young Iranians to

learn about their culture. It also will help educate the general population about Iranian culture, he said. "The whole Persian community in Southern California is excited," he said.

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