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George Azar: How to turn $60 million into $5 billion

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Our guest in this episode of devcast... is Sotheby’s giant, George Azar – Chairman & CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty (UK & Dubai).

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Hosted by Andrew Deverell-Smith, Global CEO & Founder of deverellsmith & Hintel, listen as they delve into how George mastered banking and transitioned that success into running arguably one of the most lucrative estate agency businesses on the planet.  

George’s unwavering belief in positivity fuels his success as a standout entrepreneur, pivotal in elevating Dubai’s global status and his reputation as one of the top entrepreneurs in his market.  

Read below a snippet of what George shared or watch the full podcast below. 

How George Azar made his name in Dubai real estate…

In Dubai, George gained prominence at Union BancairePrivée, a major family-owned bank. Over 14 years, he astoundingly grew the business from $60 million to $5 billion. His success lay in securing capital from major sovereigns, banks, treasuries, and large family offices, solidifying his position in the Middle Eastern finance arena.  

How did he do it? 

According to George, the key is building relationships, consistency, and hard work, day in and day out.  

George gave an example of how this strategy worked. 

George had visited a sovereign fund just 5 times in 4 years, and his colleagues advised him to give up because they believed they were never going to give him business.  

Yet, after the 5th visit, a fax arrived, granting a $1.5 billion mandate, affirming the importance of consistency in building relationships. George saw value in understanding the culture and spending time on potentially sometimes inefficient businesses, which helped him navigate partnerships in the market.  

From banking to 'making bank' in the real estate industry…

George is now leading one of the most successful estate agency businesses on the planet, how did he get there?

After George’s banking days, he didn’t see any further value in the market from an earning perspective. He shares how working in a private environment had always been beneficial to him, as he was able to get deals done faster, whereas if you work for the big banks, there are regulations and sometimes by the time you get to finalising a decision the deal is off the table.  

This empowered George to be agile and fast in decision-making. His main idea was to set up his own bank, but it was very costly and required a lot of funds.

He asked his friend, ‘What could I set up that looks like a bank, behaves like a bank but doesn’t cost like a bank?’, and the answer was real estate. So, he thought if he wanted to get into real estate, he needed a brand.  

He reeled through a list of names and that’s when he came across the name: Sotheby’s.  

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