Hasib Sabbagh: Philanthropist with a vision for peace

Hasib Sabbagh, the Palestinian billionaire and co-founder of the largest construction company in the region, has died at the age of 90.

Hasib Sabbagh, the Palestinian billionaire and co-founder of the largest construction company in the region, died on January 12 in a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 90. Mr Sabbagh's company, Consolidated Contractors Co. International, which he founded in 1952 with his brother-in-law, Said Khoury, and the late Kamel Abdul Rahman, fast became a powerhouse in the Middle East. Its projects include Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, finished in 1969, and a wing of the Reagan National Airport in Washington DC, along with scores of hotels and high rise buildings across the Middle East. The company benefited from the oil boom in the Gulf, providing offshore services to the oil and gas industries.

In 1975, the company moved its headquarters from Beirut to Athens after civil war broke out. According to its website, CCC ranks among the top 20 international contractors in the world. CCC, which today employs about 140,000 people, has annual sales of $5 billion and has played a significant role in construction in the UAE. It is responsible for the Burj Khalifa Development, which includes the Dubai Mall, among scores of other projects.

Mr Sabbagh was born in Tiberias, Palestine in 1920. A 1938 graduate of the Arab College of Jerusalem, he gained a degree in civil engineering from the American University in Beirut. In 1959, he married Diana Tamari in a church in East Beirut. The couple had three children, Sana, Suhail, and Samir. Mr Sabbagh was a great supporter of the Palestinian cause and worked to help broker peace in the region. The former US President Jimmy Carter said he was one of his earliest and strongest allies in pursuing peace in the region. "Hasib's integrity and judgment, which made him a successful businessman, also made him a trusted adviser," Mr Carter said in 2005.

He was a member of both the Palestine National Council and the Palestine Central Council, and he is credited as having helped the former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat enter talks with the United States. Mr Sabbagh was also heavily involved in philanthropic work through a foundation set up in the name of his late wife. After her death in 1978, Mr Sabbagh founded the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Foundation, a charitable trust that works in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.