New kid on the block

Meet Tariq Khan, the fun-loving former stockbroker who has built an international consulting empire. Melissa Hancock reports.

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By  Melissa Hancock Published  October 1, 2006

|~|DSC_1449-200.jpg|~|Driving force: Khan jokes that money “has always been my passion”, and owns a series of high-performance cars.|~|Meet Tariq Khan, the fun-loving former stockbroker who has built an international consulting empire. Melissa Hancock reports. When I was growing up I had two posters on my wall. One was of lots of different sports cars lined up in a row and the other was of a pile of money stacked up. My ambition was to own what was on the two posters by the time I was thirty,” Tariq Khan recalls. Only moments earlier, Khan had rolled up at the Royal Mirage Palace Hotel in a stunning white Ferrari, complete with maroon leather-fitted seats and a rear visible engine. The Ferrari is in Khan’s ‘top 3’ cars for now. “I also own an SL and a Bentley GT. I like to think that cars are my only vice,” he says good-humouredly. And as the co-founder and Managing Director of TAKtical International stepped out of the Ferrari, it appeared that both his childhood poster dreams had been achieved. But despite joking, “Money has always been a passion – I’m a very shallow man!”, it is clear that Khan has matured a lot since his boyish days. He explains that what drives him today is neither cars nor money. “For me it’s more about the success of winning and money is a barometer of that success. I take pride in winning anything - even a game of monopoly where you’re dealing in fake money - and business is a kind of game; with it’s strategy, positioning, observing what other players are doing and knowing the rules, I get a buzz out of playing and winning.” Tariq Khan is definitely not your typical pinstripe-suited businessman. “I got the biggest break of my life from an advert I saw in the paper,” says Khan with a glint in his eye. “I was 20 years old when I read this ad asking ‘Make US$100,000 per year…become a stockbroker’. I was in the middle of completing my banking and finance major but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. I remember the interviewer at the firm, (the stockbrokers StuartJames, based in California), saying to me, “Why should I give you the job when there’s a line of people outside who have completed their MBA’s and have stockbroking experience?” “Ok,” I said, “Employ me and if I haven’t made you US$100,000 in the next six months then I’ll leave.” That was in 1987 and Khan remained at the company for the next nine years during which time he became a qualified stockbroker and specialised in providing investment advice to high net-worth individuals. “I’ve always been a sponge, I like learning new things and I developed this knack for structuring deals,” Khan reflects. He built up a respectable clientele, many of whom continue to do business with him even today. At the end of 1996, Khan left the brokerage business to become the Managing Director of Manhattan West Inc. (MWI), then based in Santa Monica, California. MWI was a corporate and financial consulting firm specialising in helping young growth companies with their financial and corporate needs. The typical MWI client was either a private company being groomed to go public within 12 months of MWI’s involvement, or a public company that needed to be financially or corporately restructured. In January of 1998, Khan purchased MWI and became its sole officer and shareholder. Then in 2003 Khan met H. Kerem Turkmen - a Yale graduate who at the time was working at Kingdom Holdings. “I nicknamed him ‘the Turk from New York’,” Khan informs me playfully, before going on to explain how the two men went into partnership three years ago under the name ‘TAKtical International’ (TI). As Khan points out, the initials of the company (TK) correspond to the initials of the founding partners’ names. “A little bit of our collective egos leaking out,” he says wryly. “Collectively we set up TAKtical Advisory Group (TAG), TAKtical Realty Group (TRG) and Katalina Developments.” It was when Khan went into partnership with Turkmen and set up TAKtical International that he sold his shares in Manhattan West to TI and re-branded the company TAKtical Advisory Group Inc. - not to be confused with TAKtical Advisory Group FZ LLC, another TI-owned company based in Dubai Media City and providing consulting services to various sectors including media and telecom. This was Khan and Turkmen’s first company under TI and was brought about by the two men leveraging their U.S. contacts and relationships in media, telecoms and other industries. Meanwhile TRG is based in Dubai Marina and is involved in commercial and residential real estate. TRG works in close collaboration with leading developers, real estate agents and an array of government bodies in Dubai, enabling the company to offer clients a wide range of properties and real estate based investment opportunities in ideal locations. Finally, their Katalina Developments company is based in Jebel Ali Free Zone and is a boutique developer focusing on “signature” developments in emerging markets such as the UAE and Turkey. Khan explains: “By signature, we mean unique in either design or concept compared to its vicinity.” TI has also teamed up with Beaufort International to create the joint venture Beaufort-TAKtikal. Beaufort International is a London-based FSA regulated financial advisory firm that Khan invested in nearly eight years ago and today sits on its board. Beaufort International has over 10 years experience in advising corporate and high net worth individuals in international investment strategies. Through combining Beaufort’s reputation and clientele with TI’s real estate investment expertise, Beaufort-TAKtical strives to provide its European clientele with attractive investment opportunities in developing real estate markets such as Dubai and Turkey. The company also provides in-depth research, knowledge and experience in several other property markets such as Pakistan, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. None of TI’s companies are listed on the DIFC and Khan says he has no intention of listing them. “If we float our companies, then we will have to give up shares. But we want to retain complete ownership,” he reasons. The only company that they do disclose any financials on is TAKtical Realty group because this is the only company with which they’re dealing with outside investors, their prime investors being European and North American in addition to merchant families from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. TRG grossed US$10.8m in turnover last year. However, something that Khan is considering at the moment is adopting the REIT law - a law that the UAE is currently introducing into the DIFC. REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) is something that has been actively used as a financial instrument in Europe and the U.S. to provide liquidity to holders of large real estate portfolios or to allow a group of investors to participate in larger real estate transactions. Khan explains: “We feel that this will give us a tremendous opportunity to participate in this sector. Our vision is to eventually make Katalina into an entity that could become a manager of REITs and our eventual goal is to become a fully-fledged investment bank focusing on clients whose prominent assets are real estate, regardless of the business they are in.” And what other goals does Khan have for TAKtical International? “I’d like to keep fine-tuning what we’re doing and make TI a household name within the next three years. I think probably the best and potentially the worst thing about Dubai are the endless opportunities. Some people are trying to have a slice of every pie and embrace every opportunity out there but I think it’s important to stay focused.” Since TI outsources so much of their business, their core team numbers only 35-40 employees and Khan says their vision is never to exceed 50. He is clear about the strategy TAKtical will adopt in order to become a household name. “We will build our business slowly and cautiously, providing a positive customer/client experience so that our reputation grows positively, whether its through print or word of mouth. Much like my business role model, Richard Branson, I’d like to brand TAKtical so that regardless of the business or industry we get into, we are viewed as a confident and competent company.” And Branson is clearly a big role model to Khan for a number of reasons: “He doesn’t follow tradition but always thinks out of the box and he’s a risk-taker. But I admire him most of all for the way that as he succeeds, he has so much fun.” The latter is something Khan certainly shares in common with Branson but what about taking risks? “You know, I’m becoming more averse to taking risks as I grow older. I think that’s human nature though...when you’re young you have nothing to lose so you can risk it all but as you get older you become a more calculated risk-taker. Having said that, I enjoy doing deals that no one has ever dared to do before as I know if it goes right, I’ll probably make a lot of money out of it!” In the meantime Khan is living and loving life to the full. “Dubai has some of the nicest restaurants, lounges, clubs and hotels in the world and I love the cosmopolitan mix of people. I’m enjoying Dubai so much at the moment that I can’t envisage being anywhere else,” he says contentedly. “Dubai is a hot-bed of possibilities right now with everything forecast to grow by 300-500% over the next ten years. I think Dubai has such a tremendous upside and will eventually become another major financial and business hub like London, New York or Hong Kong. It’s exciting to be here at the beginning and I feel that if we position ourselves properly, we could become a significant player in Dubai’s growth.” And that last comment perhaps sums up Dubai’s worldwide appeal at the moment. Whatever your dream, Dubai gives you the confidence to pursue it. Time will tell whether Khan becomes the Middle East’s answer to Branson. If not, he's got one other dream: "I'd love to act in a movie - more Hollywood than Bollywood."||**||

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