Georgian businessman's Hollywood story - From taxi driver to billionaire
13 May, 2014
Georgian businessman's Hollywood story - From taxi driver to billionaire
Richest Georgians can be found in nine other countries besides Georgia.
Davit Iakobashvili, Tamaz Somkhishvili, Davit Zhvania, Kakha Bendukidze, Levan Vasadze, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili – Georgians who got rich in various ways and periods of time. It is known that besides our country, these people live in nine different countries around the world. We will try to better acquaint you with them, their way of thinking and formulas of successful business.

Temur Sepiashvili, originally Tamir Sapir, is a Jew who emigrated
from Georgia and is now among the world’s richest people, with his net worth estimated at 1.4 billion dollars in 2010. But it needs to be said that by the time Sepiashvili took 721st place among 937 of the world’s richest people, his net worth was already reduced to 700 million.

His company possesses 2.5 million square metres of real estate in. He leads a rather interesting life that resembles a Hollywood movie. Once an ordinary student in Tbilisi, Tamir went to America in search of a better life and lucked out by pure accident. This is a joke, of course, but every joke has a grain of truth to it.

Sapir speaks four languages, has a 17-storey house in Mexico, a personal plane that he bought from Syria’s former president Hafez Al-Assad and one of the biggest yachts in the world. However, he frequently got involved in various scandals, but always managed to come out clean. It is said that Sapir never hides his past and remembers with a smile the Soviet times when he earned his first money.
Temur Sepiashvili was born in Tbilisi. His family owned three rooms at Khodasheni Street, 14. His father was a major in the Soviet Army. Upon finishing school, Temur began studying journalism at Tbilisi State University. He was in his fourth year when his family left Georgia and he had to discontinue his studies. “My classmate at the university was Stalin’s grandson Vasily, whom I was friends with. I’ll never forget the time when I invited him to my home and introduced him to my father. When my father realized whose grandson he was, he fell on his knees and wept tears of joy” – recalls Sapir.

Following the death of his father, Sapir’s family ended up in a difficult social situation. But Temur managed to find a way out – his friend, who worked in the passport system, taught him to process the passports for immigration to Israel, thus giving him a job. Back in the day there were long queues for passport-related matters, and Temur eagerly took to that new field of work, making quite a profit from it. He got married at the age of 24 and went to Israel soon afterwards. There was a war between Arabs and Israeli in 1973, so Temur decided to leave Israel and head to a small town in Kentucky. “I was ready to accept any job, so I ended up caring for elderly women. Every day I took them to a special facility where they entertained themselves by knitting, singing and other things. They were the ones who taught me English. Right next to me lived a rich man who owned several shops. He had a business selling tools and offered me to work for him.” – remembers the billionaire. He worked as a driver, janitor and a loader, while dedicating his free time to studying English and saving up money. In 10 months, his family came to live in New York and Temur Sepiashvili became a cabbie. “I worked day and night, because I wanted to buy out the car. I slept at the airport, waiting for the first flight to arrive. In six months, the taxi became mine. I made 300-400$ per day and had time to go with my family to the park, to the movies, to the restaurant”, - says Sapir. He had almost everything that was needed for a quiet life, but decided not to stop at that. Sapir knew that there is nothing to be gained without taking risks. One day he took all his savings as well as 10,000$ bank loan and, along with an emigrant Sam Kislin, invested it into opening an electronics shop on Broadway. “Emigrants visited our shop, mainly guests from the Soviet Union. What did they take back to their homes? Tape recorders and VHS’s,” Sapir recalls.

Former President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze played an important role in his success. “Once USSR’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eduard Shevardnadze, visited my shop. One of his bodyguards, Murad Kazishvili, turned out to be my childhood friend. Back in the day, an organization existed called “Council for American-Soviet Trade”, in which over a hundred large American companies participated, among them “Occidental Petroleum Hammer” and “Pepsi-Cola”, which also had business ties with the USSR. With Murad’s help, I also joined this organization and went to Moscow with Vice-President Bush, who headed the Council,” Tamir says. According to him, during his stay in Moscow, one of his friends advised him to start exporting carbamide to America. This substance is necessary for oil production and during Soviet times it cost 5 times less than in the US. The Carbamide trade gave Tamir his first million and as he says, whet his appetite.

He exported American clothing, footwear and tech to USSR while importing oil and oil products from there, investing profits into real estate in New York. Prices on real estate were low in 1995-1996: for example, a skyscraper that is now estimated to be worth approximately 1.5 billion dollars cost just 17 million back then. Sapir got incredibly lucky; according to his own words, it was nothing less than divine intervention. In 1997, real estate prices grew and property that Sapir bought for miniscule prices was sold for colossal amounts of money. This is how Sapir got his first billion.

In order for Tamir Sapir’s biography to be complete, recollections of his classmate, Sergo Davlianidze, must be also mentioned. “We managed to be friends and also fight in the 60’s. My classmate from Tbilisi State School #45 was a boxing enthusiast, just like me. Who could imagine that he would become a businessman? He lived in a communal apartment near an Ashkenazi synagogue in Old Tbilisi, where all neighbors had to use the same water closet. Last time I saw Temur was in 1984 in Moscow, when he studied at Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs’ academy. He already had his own business then and offered to provide me with foreign electronics and tech if I wanted to. He was also present at an opening of a synagogue in Tbilisi in 2009, but I failed to meet with him then” – recalls Temur Sepiashvili’s classmate. It is noteworthy that the fact of émigré billionaire’s study at Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs isn’t featured in any of his biographies and neither does Sapir himself talk about this in his recollections.

Currently he lives in New York in one of the most expensive houses near “Metropolitan Museum”, which he bought for 40 million dollars long ago. It is not known whether Sapir owns real estate in Georgia or whether he has any business interest in Georgia, but local Jews benefit from his charity. It is known that he financed the restoration of “Beit-Rahel” synagogue in Tbilisi. Sapir has two children – daughter Zina and son Alexi, who are also his business partners.

Print
Other Stories
International Festival of classical music to be held in Batumi
At the end of this week an International Festival of classic music will kick off for the 6th time in Batumi, Georgia’s beautiful seaside city.
Georgians who beat the world record
There are many Georgians among the world recordsmen. Georgians managed to beat the world record for 78 times to date. Today we explore four of them.
Jenny Brunt speaks about Georgia with Georgian Journal
Jenny Brunt is among the most famous models worldwide. She used to be on the covers of different international magazines in the 1990s.
Tako Natsvlishvili wearing Pain de Sucre - photographed by David Bellemere
Tako Natsvlishvili is a 19-yeal old model from Georgia. She has recently been photographed by a prominent French photographer David Bellemere.
Former Georgian plastic surgeon who owns a restaurant in New York
Maia Acquaviva is a Georgian former surgeon, who worked in one of the clinics here in Tbilisi, but decided to go to the USA and start a business there.
David Beckham first saw Victoria Adams in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is truly a magical city. It brings many people and cultures together, even connects future spouses. Do you think we are joking? Not at all.
Georgia should be at the top of every travel destination list – says German photographer about Georgia
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Georgia tomorrow and possibly as a result of this visit the German media is currently writing a lot about Georgia.
Alexander Julakidze - Georgian pianist based in Jerusalem
A well-known Georgian pianist Alexander Julakidze has successfully participated in a variety of piano competitions. He currently lives in Jerusalem, Israel contributing to Georgia’s popularity all over the world.
Anna Kendrick in David Koma’s dress
The readers of the Georgian Journal will definitely have heard about David Koma, a young and talented Georgian designer based in London.
Medical tourism increases in Georgia
In the first quarter of 2018, Georgia was visited by 13 900 foreigners for medical and recovery purposes. The level is 61.2 % higher than the same period in 2017.
Rebellious and successful Georgian model based in Barcelona
Remember we told you a story this week about a Georgian model Paloma Anastasia Mikadze, who currently is based in Barcelona and is quite successful there?
Georgian Rubik’s Cube solver Vako Marchilashvili breaks the Guinness World Record
Vako Marchilashvili is a young Rubik’s Cube solver from Georgia. He participated in “Georgia’s Got Talent 2017 “and introduced his genius abilities to the Georgian public.
Turkish born Georgian sisters sing a beautiful song
There are many Georgians, who live in Turkey, but maintain Georgian culture and heritage.
What types of transport can Georgia offer tourists?
Train, subway, bus, mini-bus, taxi and airplane – these are the types of transport that Georgia can offer tourists.
Chris Botti to perform in Georgia
American trumpeter Chris Botti arrived in Georgia yesterday. Today the musician is due to perform with the Georgian singer Nani Bregvadze.
Georgian schoolchildren create Robot “Vano”
Georgian students from the Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi have created a robot named Vano.
Khatia Buniatishvili performs with the Estonian Festival Orchestra at the Proms in London
On the 13th of August, Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London during its famous Proms season.
Paloma Anastasia Mikadze, an Instagram star from Georgia
Anastasia Mikadze is a Georgian social network star from Georgia. She shares her ideas about fashion, interior design and healthy lifestyle with hundreds of followers on Instagram.
Georgian lifeguard who saved life of nearly 700 people
Gocha Bilvanidze, the Head of the Maritime Rescue Service has been with the organization for eight years now. He has saved the lives of around 700 people during that time.
Children of Georgian migrant to the USA Parten Chikviladze (Peter Chiglo) visit Georgia
A 16-year Parten Chikviladze from Racha (the western part of Georgia) left Georgian 1913 for America, never to return back.
 Surprising proposal by a Georgian Soldier
The video of a Georgian Cadet Soldier’s proposal to his girlfriend has gone viral on the social media. He proposed to her in the presence of other soldiers in front of the Academy.
The 10th anniversary of the 2008 war through a young graphic designer’s eye
A 23-year old Nika Chalakhshasvhili is a graphic designer from Georgia. He has created some interesting illustrations to express his protest against the Russian occupation of Georgian territory:
Georgian policewomen: stereotypes and reality
The number of female members in the Security Forces is increasing year after year.
Georgian entrant who got top marks in two subjects
Devi Oniani is a graduate of the 55th Public School, Tbilisi, Georgia.
What is behind the collection “Family and War” by Demna Gvasalia
A Georgian fashion designer, the Creative Director of Balenciaga and Head Designer at Vetements, presented a collection named “Family and War” during Paris Fashion Week.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
24.09.2018
25.09.2018
USD
1
USD
2.6216
2.6226
EUR
1
EUR
3.0854
3.0868
GBP
1
GBP
3.4584
3.4416
RUB
100
RUB
3.9340
3.9814
Other Stories
World famous British singer Jessie J has decided to wear clothes made by Anouki Areshidze, Georgian designer and wife of the mayor of Tbilisi.
Bassiani, one of the most popular underground clubs not only in Georgia but throughout Europe as well, has opened today
An amazing video made in Georgia by tourists from the Philippines have gone viral on the internet.
Over the recent two days May 12-13 Tbilisi city saw a peaceful protest rally in the center of the city.
Hundreds of people took to the main street Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi to protest the raid in Tbilisi’s popular night clubs.
Two bear cubs listed as endangered on the red list were handed over to Tbilisi Zoo,
Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and Deputy Tbilisi Mayor Ms. Sophio Khuntsaria have gifted a food stand
Pamela Anderson, famous Canadian American actress and model has appeared in the chic sunglasses by internationally acclaimed Georgian designer George Keburia.
A ski lift accident in Georgia’s eastern Gudauri resort,in particular at Sadzele 5 lift, has left 8 people with injuries.
The ski lift in Gudauri winter resort in Georgia has broke down in the aftermath of which several people have been injured.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.6226
EUR
1
EUR
3.0868
GBP
1
GBP
3.4416
RUB
100
RUB
3.9814