Strategy&'s Gabriel Chahine joins AlixPartners to lead Middle East unit

26 September 2018

Gabriel Chahine, a senior partner at Strategy& in the Middle East, has joined rival AlixPartners to lead the firm’s Middle East division. Chahine takes responsibility for AlixPartners’s offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and soon to be opened Riyadh operation.

The new regional market leader of AlixPartners has been brought on board with a remit to “significantly expand” the firm’s business across the region, according to Michael Baur, who leads the firm’s EMEA business unit, which aside from the pair of offices in the Middle East spans ten offices in Europe. “We have ambitious plans for the Gulf region,” he said.

The firm’s expansion drive in the region hinges on two main components. First, spending on management consulting services in the Middle East is on the rise. According to data sourced from Source Global Research, the consultancy market of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman – grew by 7% last year to a value of $2.8 billion. Illustrating the consultancy landscape’s sustained growth in the region, back in 2013 the GCC consulting market was still below the $2 billion threshold.

In Middle East’s growing sector, AlixPartners currently holds a market share which is smaller than it enjoys for instance in Europe. Among the largest players, McKinsey & Company has over 500 consultants across seven offices (Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Karachi, Kuwait, Manama and Riyadh), The Boston Consulting Group has 400+ employees based in Beirut, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while German-origin Roland Berger has offices in Beirut, Manama and Dubai. The region’s largest strategy & operations consultant is however Chahine’s former employer, Strategy&, which has more than 500 staff across seven offices. The strategy consulting division of PwC thanks its leading position for a large part on its heritage in the Middle East – the firm was in the 1990s the first global management consulting firm (then under the Booz Allen brand) to open offices in the region, starting with Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Beirut.

Strategy&'s Gabriel Chahine joins AlixPartners to lead Middle East unit

AlixPartners currently has two offices, and it therefore comes as no surprise that the US-headquartered firm is aiming for expansion into Saudi Arabia, which is the region’s largest consulting market. Valued at around $1.3 billion, Saudi Arabia represents nearly half of the GCC consultancy market, ahead of the UAE, which sees spending of around $790 million flow to management consultants. Much of the spending in the Kingdom is spurred by the government sector, with the country’s overarching ‘Vision 2030’ providing a boost to consulting fees. Many of the globe’s top consultancies in Saudi Arabia are involved somewhere within the programme – which has been co-designed by McKinsey & Company – providing advisory and support services.

“Saudi Arabia presents a significant opportunity and the opening of our office in Riyadh greatly enhances our ability to assist our clients in that market,” explained Baur. The new office, AlixPartners’ fourteenth outside of the Americas, where the consultancy boasts 10 offices, is set to formally open by the end of the month. 

Global growth strategy

The second driver of AlixPartners’s ramp up follows from the revised global strategy it crafted back in the fourth quarter of 2016. After four years operating under the umbrella of CVC Capital Partners, company founder Jay Alix joined forces with three investors to acquire the firm from the private equity group in November 2016. As part of the change of ownership the firm’s executive leadership laid out an ambitious growth plan for the period 2016 – 2020. While not giving away concrete figures, Baur did say that the EMEA business is “showing excellent growth”, and that the investment into the Middle East demonstrates the firm’s commitment to the region.

Chahine has been tasked with delivering AlixPartners’ expertise to both private sector and governmental entities, at a time when they are arguably facing more change than ever. Mirroring much of the firm’s global portfolio, AlixPartners Middle East helps its clients with performance improvement, business transformation, restructuring & turnaround, risk mitigation and digitisation.

“We are delighted to welcome a leader of Gabriel Chahine’s calibre and in-market experience to AlixPartners.”
– Michael Baur, EMEA Leader at AlixPartners

Prior to working for Strategy&, and its legal predecessors Booz & Company and Booz Allen Hamilton for a total of twenty years, Chahine had a four-year spell at Accenture (at the time Andersen Consulting) in North America, where he completed his studies at McGill University, Canada. The experienced consultant later in his career also obtained a MBA from INSEAD in Paris, an institution which enjoys large popularity among Strategy& Middle East colleagues.

Throughout his career, he has helped a wide range of consumer-facing industries including telecoms, media, healthcare, consumer products and retail. In addition to his industry expertise, Chahine has also worked on numerous government sponsored projects including privatisations and creating corporate organisations from state run concerns.

Commenting on his new challenge, Chahine said, “I am excited to be joining AlixPartners at a key stage of the firm’s development in the Gulf region. Having worked in the market here for many years it is clear that in a crowded generalist consulting market, AlixPartners’ specialist focus on leading businesses through transformational situations is a real point of difference and something clients value highly. There is a significant opportunity to deploy these skills to assist both corporate and governmental entities, as well as supporting new market entrants.”

AlixPartners first established a presence in the Middle East with a Dubai office in 2010. Leaders who have previously led the regional business unit include Eugenio Berenga and Vinzenz Schwegmann.

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Carlos Ghosn's daughters get their career starts in strategy consulting

16 April 2019

With the Ghosn affair taking yet another twist, this time concerning allegations in Oman, the world’s media remains gripped.

A highly celebrated figure in Lebanon, the case of ex-Nissan and now ex-Renault head Carlos Ghosn has captivated the media round the world, with his re-arrest and detainment in Japan on further embezzlement charges last week – this time concerning allegations in Oman – delivering the latest twist in the saga. For his part, Ghosn continues to deny the charges, labeling the latest allegations of financial impropriety as “outrageous and arbitrary”.

Much of the media fascination stems from Ghosn’s remarkable story. Born to Lebanese immigrants in Brazil, Ghosn spent much of his youth in Lebanon before moving to Paris to pursue an engineering degree – and in almost no time arriving at the very top of the global automotive industry as a feted turn-around specialist, having rescued both Renault and Nissan from probable ruin. The other factor; a cultivated lifestyle of celebrity glamour.

Front and centre in that image was Ghosn’s young family, including a son Anthony and three daughters – Caroline, Maya and Nadine – who have all grown into their own spotlight in the international business and entrepreneurial worlds. And in line with that A-list background, all three of his daughters got their career starts at the crème de la crème of the strategy and management consulting world; prestigious MBB firms McKinsey & Company and BCG.The Ghosn family affair with the international consulting sector  The eldest Ghosn daughter, Caroline, joined McKinsey in 2007 following a BA in International Relations at Stamford University – before founding professional career network Levo in 2011 with three of her McKinsey associates. Her husband, Nicholas Flanders, CEO and co-founder of carbon reduction tech-company Opus 12, (and former COO of Levo), is likewise an alumnus of McKinsey – serving for three and a half years alongside Ghosn in the firm’s New York office.

Carlos Ghosn’s second daughter got her start at Boston Consulting Group.  A regonised name in luxury fashion as the founder and creative director of Nadine Ghosn Fine Jewelry, her brand counts and Beyoncé and the recently deceased fashion icon Karl Largerfeld among its celebrity clientele. At BCG, Nadine, who also graduated Stamford, served as an associate in the firm’s luxury and consumer goods practice before joining a management programme at Hermès.

Like her eldest sister, Ghosn’s youngest daughter Maya joined McKinsey’s New York office – spending over three years there as an engagement manager before departing in 2016. Maya is now Manager, Housing Affordability for the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan to promote social equality. Incidentally, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, a former McKinsey consultant, has been a mentor to Caroline and also founded, where Maya first started out as an intern.

Carlos Ghosn’s son Anthony – who has now been embroiled in his father’s affair with accusations of money being funneled via Oman toward his financial services start-up, Shogun (where he is CEO but has not been accused of any direct involvement) – didn’t get his break at an MBB, but his step-brother, Anthony Marshi, the son of Carlos Ghosn’s second wife Carole Nahas, is a partner with BCG in New York according to French newspaper Le Figaro.