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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With The Karahan Cos. CEO Fehmi Karahan

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

The Karahan Cos. President and CEO Fehmi Karahan arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s with only $130 to his name. Now he is one of North Texas’ most successful developers.

The Karahan Cos. CEO Fehmi Karahan

Karahan said he is living the American dream, and his projects aim to give others the same. He has made a name for himself in high-end mixed-use development, is an active investor, owner and developer in the single-tenant campus space, and is heavily active in local business, civic and healthcare-related organizations. 

His work has centered around Plano, north of Dallas, where he has developed Legacy WestLegacy Town Center and The Shops at Legacy, all mixed-use developments that defy their suburban location through high-density urban design.

Karahan took Bisnow a bit deeper into his world and career as a developer.

The Karahan Cos. CEO and President Fehmi Karahan poses at Legacy West with his wife and daughter.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Karahan: Creating widely successful places with heart and soul when people say, "It won't work."

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Karahan: My first job when I came to NYC in 1978, handing out fliers for a restaurant for a hot meal and $3 an hour pay.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Karahan: Captain of a yacht in the Aegean Sea. 

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Karahan: Each project is like a family member and I love them equally.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Karahan: Failure is not an option.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Karahan: Slow anything. I am not a very patient person.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Karahan: Playing cards with the same group of guys once a week over the last 38 years. 

Bisnow: What motivates you?

Karahan: Achieving my goals.

Fehmi Karahan

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?

Karahan: Always trust your instincts (which I was doing anyway).

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Karahan: Coming to the USA at age 22 with $130 in my pocket. 

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Karahan: Lately, nothing.

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Karahan: Istanbul, Turkey, where I was born.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Karahan: My family. 

Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?

Karahan: Declining malls and changes in the retail environment. 

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Karahan: That I hope to continue to work in my 90s and beyond.  

Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?

Karahan: The guy that came to America with almost nothing and lived the American dream while he was able to make a difference in the quality of lives of people in North Texas.