Letter from Chairman
I am often asked why my family office, Corniche, was given its name. There are some who think it is in homage to the eponymous Rolls Royce; whereas those who know the Cote d’Azur believe the name betrays a fondness for the South of France and the three dramatic coastal roads that head east out of Nice towards the border with Italy.
The truth is rather less obvious and considerably more personal.
I chose to name my family office Corniche to honour my father Mohammed Said Farsi. My father was a visionary civic leader and philanthropist who did much to shape modern Saudi Arabia, first as a planning officer and then, from 1972 until 1986 as mayor of the coastal city of Jeddah. Under his leadership the population of Jeddah grew five fold and this rapid increase in the number of inhabitants inspired my father to create a unique public space where the citizens of this bustling cosmopolitan metropolis could come together to enjoy their city; a broad and sweeping boulevard that traced a path along the coast. As a piece of urban planning it transformed the character of the city, but more than that my father turned it into an open air art gallery commissioning hundreds of major monumental works from the great modern masters, many of whom were his personal friends. It was a space of which he and the city could be proud, a space that he called the Corniche evoking at once the beauty and the artistic legacy of the South of France.
At the time Jeddah’s Corniche was a bold, prescient move; and it has since matured into the most palpable and enduring legacy of his mayoralty, a legacy that continues to be a source of pride and pleasure for citizens of and visitors to Jeddah over a quarter of a century later. It also helped that the word Corniche is international lexicon: in our offices you will hear English, Arabic and French being spoken and the word Corniche is common to all of them.
As ours is a family office, it seemed appropriate for me to name it after one of my father’s greatest achievements, especially as I see the work we do, in the fields of development, energy, the arts and philanthropy, as a continuation of what he started.
Until the age of 15 lived in Jeddah but travelled widely with his father; thereafter Hani Farsi went to South Kent School Connecticut and then attended the American University in Washington DC, graduating with a BA/ Masters in International Affairs. He continues to play an active role at his alma mater and has served on the board of trustees since 1996. Upon graduation he worked in the Washington office of Amnesty International and then moved to London in 1993 to catalogue the family art collection and begin management of the family's assets. From 1993 until 2000 he sat on the board of the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, personally subsidizing the acclaimed London Theatre and saving it from closure until Lottery funding was allocated. From 1998 he invested in the burgeoning field of London restaurants and membership clubs, building up the largest shareholding in the Soho House Group, before selling to Richard Caring, Caprice Ltd, in the summer of 2007. Hani Farsi became a British citizen in 2003.
Hani Farsi is also committed to continuing the philanthropic work of his father Dr M S Farsi, who was Planning Officer for the Western Region of Saudi Arabia and from 1972 to 1986 Mayor of Jeddah. It was in Dr Farsi’s honour that the M S Farsi Foundation was founded in 2009 to perpetuate his work in supporting the advancement of healthcare, cultural awareness, education and environmental protection. So far the MSFF has bestowed grants upon projects in Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East and The United States.