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Friends, colleagues remember Samih Darwazah on 85th birthday

By Dana Al Emam - Oct 14,2015 - Last updated at Oct 14,2015

AMMAN — At a time when very few people knew what entrepreneurship was, Samih Darwazah, founder of Hikma Pharmaceuticals, dreamed of excellence and worked hard until it was achieved.

In line with his vision of the production of high quality and affordable medicine, Darwazah established the Amman-headquartered company — now a multi-national group operating in over 50 countries, listed on the London Stock Exchange, and noted as the biggest pharmaceutical company in the region — in 1978.

Darwazah, who passed away on May 15 of this year, was remembered by family, friends, colleagues and public figures at a memorial on Tuesday, which marked what would have been his 85th birthday.

The ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Abduallah Ensour and senior government officials, diplomats and unionists, highlighted Darwazah’s contributions to both the Kingdom and the region as a businessman and a philanthropist.

Asma Rawashdeh, principal of the Samih Darwazah Elementary School for Girls in Shobak, highlighted Darwazah’s belief in the importance of education, especially for women. She herself studied and taught at the school he established and supported throughout his lifetime.

Hanna Nasir, founder of Birzeit University in the West Bank and an old companion of Darwazah’s, affirmed Darwazah’s passion for education, citing the recent inauguration of the Samih Darwazah Institute of Pharmaceutical Industries at the university as an example.

Meanwhile, Senior Corporate Vice President for Technical Affairs at Hikma Ibrahim Jalal shared some memories of his 35-year relationship with Darwazah.

Jalal, who started working at the company in 1979, said Darwazah always treated employees as family members and encouraged them to pursue degrees and take part in training programmes, both locally and internationally.

He said that the group, which is inspired by Darwazah’s attitude and vision, is a “melting pot” of workers from all walks of life.

Jalal added that back in the 1980s, Darwazah strove for Hikma productions to meet American standards in order to export Jordanian medicine to the US.

“Although many believed it could never happen, Samih believed that his team could do it, and in 1995, Hikma started exporting to the United States,” he said at the ceremony, held at the Royal Cultural Centre.

Also speaking at the ceremony, former prime minister Abdul Karim Kabariti recounted his experience with Darwazah as both a former minister of energy and a senator.

Kabariti underscored Darwazah’s “high self-discipline”, rational decision-making and his ability to accept criticism.

He said that Darwazah’s book, “Building a Global Success”, is internationally recognised for its value and is taught at a number of prestigious universities, including Harvard.

Darwazah was “humanitarian with no limits”, as former prime minister and Senate president Taher Masri put it, adding that he was loyal to the Palestinian cause and the region and did not believe in “artificial political borders” dividing Arab countries.

The deceased’s eldest son, Said, who is CEO and Chairman of Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC, said that even when facing his second round of cancer, his father never lost his smile and positive attitude. 

“He sustained his faith until the last moment,” he said.

Said also mentioned the special importance that Darwazah’s honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut held, adding that out of all the awards and recognition this one was an acknowledgment from his home university.

In 2004, Darwazah received the Kingdom’s Order of Independence first class and in 2007 he was named as Ernst & Young’s Middle East entrepreneur of the year. 

In 2013, Darwazah ranked first on the Emerging Markets Leaders 100 list released by Scrip magazine, which is specialised in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Hikma financial statements, revenues generated by the company in 2014 reached $1.49 billion, while gross profits were $581 million.

 

“Each one of us has lost Abu Said in his/her way,” Said concluded.

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