Jewish Journal

Sam Nazarian’s SBE Group hosts fundraising events for Hillary and Obama

by Karmel Melamed

August 28, 2007 | 10:21 pm

On August 9th Iranian Jewish hotel and nightclub entrepreneur Sam Nazarian hosted events for both presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at two of his company’s trendy venues in West Hollywood. Following her participation in a democratic presidential forum in Los Angeles for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, Clinton joined 700 supporters for a fundraiser at “The Abbey”, a high end restaurant and bar operated by Nazarian’s SBE Group. “The Abbey was chosen because Mrs. Clinton wanted to go West Hollywood where the LGBT community lives to address issues important to them,” said Luis Vizcaino, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign. During the same night, SBE’s popular nightclub “Area” in West Hollywood hosted post forum fundraising event for Obama and his supporters. SBE’s Vice President of Marketing, Michael Doneff said the company was interested in encouraging the patrons of their venues in becoming politically active. “We feel that it is paramount as socially responsible citizens to help our community and by promoting events such as these at our properties, we can become involved and engaged in the election,” said Doneff. Nazarian’s involvement in social issues involving the Gay and Lesbian community is perhaps one of first for the Iranian Jewish community which by in large has not engaged in any public dialogue regarding such issues that have long been considered taboo to discuss. Calls made to the Obama campaign for comment were not returned.

Last October, SBE’s “Privilege” nightclub on the Sunset Strip hosted an exclusive party fundraiser attended by Iranian Jewish young professionals on behalf of Israeli victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks. This event was put together by the Iranian American Jewish Federation and attended by nearly 300 local Iranian Jewish young professionals.

SBE owns interests in various hotels in Los Angeles, Miami, and acquired the Le Meridien Hotel in Beverly Hills for roughly $115 million in 2005. Nazarian’s latest real estate deal came in March 2007 when his SBE and Stockbridge Real Estate Group jointly purchase the famous “Sahara Hotel” in Las Vegas from the Bennett family. The transaction is said to be valued between $300 and $400 million for just the hotel/casino and a nearby 18 acre lot. Likewise SBE owns and operates a number of upscale and hip restaurants as well as the popular nightclubs including “Area”, “Hyde”, “Lobby” and “Privilege” all on the Sunset Strip.

In addition, Nazarian’s production company Element Films, under the SBE umbrella, as of 2007 has produced 11 films of which two have yet to be released. In the summer of 2007, Nazarian produced “Mr. Brooks”, the thriller film staring Kevin Costner and Demi Moore.

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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