“I come from a Lebanese family and we settle our differences around the table: my father demonstrates his love with a generous offering of food, and this holds true for business too. It is vital to build a relationship outside the office, in places where you can discuss everything from family to problem-solving.
Whenever I’m hosting fashion businesspeople in São Paulo, like Chanel UK’s managing director Olivier Nicolay, I opt for Manioca, a local restaurant that does excellent fresh ceviche and carpaccio, with a Brazilian touch. When we did Gucci Museo’s pop-up at our JK Iguatemi mall, Manioca catered for an intimate dinner party with Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault that we held at Casa Jereissati, the glass and steel pavilion built by Iguatemi in the leafy Jardins district. It was a special night, with Gal Costa singing bossa nova.
I always try to create special, authentic and personal moments. It allows clients and partners to see a different side of our corporate culture; and in Brazil, people appreciate a more relaxed approach. That informal feeling extends to meals with my team: I am a big fan of Junji Sakamoto, a Japanese restaurant that serves an incredible 16-course omakase menu – the chef decides what you eat – in a simple, cosy setting. They appreciate this focused one-on-one time – and the delicious calamari with black salt.
In terms of entertaining, breakfasts aren’t a big part of our culture – I keep it light and exercise in the morning – but lunch meetings are essential. One of my favourite places to go with finance people is Rodeio, in the Jardins area. When we did our IPO in 2007, we celebrated here over picanha and caipirinhas with our bankers from Itaú, so it’s special.
I spend a lot of time visiting our malls around Brazil. When we opened Christian Louboutin’s store in Brasilia, he hosted a meal for 100 customers at Gero, the best Italian restaurant in town. Christian was quite overwhelmed by having so many women in one place.
In Buenos Aires, I meet with private Argentine families in the mall business or our existing partners. We go to Cabaña Las Lilas on the Puerto Madero waterfront, where the steaks are different cuts from what you find in Brazil, and with the house rice and creamed spinach, make for huge, shared meals that everyone enjoys.
I also travel extensively to visit our tenants such as Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. Seeing their headquarters gives me a better sense of their needs and what they are working on. A memorable Milanese meal was at Cracco, when we did the deal with then-COO of Prada, Sebastian Suhl, for our Brazilian malls; the chef, Carlo Cracco, made us a special saffron risotto.
In New York, I like the views of the sculpture garden and the pan-roasted salmon at The Modern, at the MoMA, and after lunch, I’ll detour to see an exhibition. I’ve also had many meetings at Marea, with bankers and fashion-industry figures. The casual, elegant room and the light crudos and pastas appeal to everyone.
For special clients, I arrange personal trips to the shows in Paris or Milan, bringing small groups to meet with the designers of houses including Gucci and Hermès. One of the most unforgettable business meals I’ve had anywhere was at the Hermès store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. We were meeting with Eric Grellety Bosviel, managing director of Hermès Latin America, about building their store in São Paulo, and they hosted lunch on the garden terrace, overlooking the iconic horse on top of the store. It was a beautiful day, and it reminded me of when my mother took me to Paris as a child and I had to wait outside. It was nice to get a different perspective on that horse!”