Overcoming Adversities and Becoming a Leader: The Monzer Hourani Story

This groundbreaking leadership research by has received extensive endorsements and enthusiastic reviews from well-known prominent business, political, and academic leaders who either participated in the study or reviewed the research findings. You will discover the proven success habits and secrets of people who, in spite of difficult or life threatening challenges shaped their own destiny to become successful, effective leaders. The full results of this research will be presented in the upcoming book by Dr. Howard Edward Haller titled “Leadership: View from the Shoulders of Giants.”

The nine initial prominent successful leaders who overcame adversity that were interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Dr. John Malone, Larry Pino, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

The data from the above nine research participants was materially augmented by seven other successful leaders who overcame adversity including: Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, J. Terrence Lanni, Angelo Mozilo, Dr. Nido Qubein, and Dr. John Sperling.

Additionally, five internationally known and respected leadership scholars offered their reviews of the leadership research findings including: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Jim Kouzes, Dr. John Kotter, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

This is a short biography of one of the principal participants who generously contributed their time and insight for this important research into the phenomenon of how prominent successful leaders overcome adversity and obstacles. This is Monzer Hourani’s story:

Monzer Hourani was born in what was then Palestine, in 1944. He shared that “we are a Lebanese Christian family, from southern Lebanon. We’ve been there for ages. Our family was a major land owner in Palestine . . . . but when Israel became a state, we were forced out of Israel.” The Hourani family returned to southern Lebanon to rebuild their lives and try to rebuild their fortune.

Unfortunately, civil war, which began in Lebanon in the late 1950s and continued for years, would devastate Lebanon in general and the Hourani family in particular. Monzer commented that “starting in 1958 there was a civil war in Lebanon. My mother was killed on my fourteenth birthday, right in front of me. Unfortunate thing happened, so, it’s very tragic in my opinion.” During the civil war, he did not know for weeks whether his family had survived the various battles.

Monzer said, “I was offered a scholarship to go to Russia, to a major university, in physics, but I refused it. I really wanted to come to the U.S., because I liked the west, in fact, I liked John Wayne.” He applied and was admitted to the University of Texas in Austin. He spoke primarily French with very limited English. At the University of Texas “they had a French professor and a physics professor to do the exams.” Monzer arrived in the U.S. in 1965, studied at the University of Texas, in Austin and “graduated in 1969 with a degree in Architecture and a second degree in Structural Engineering, with two degrees.”

Monzer Hourani is the founder, chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Medistar, a Real Estate Investment Trust specializing in the building and development of hospitals and integrated medical office buildings. I initially interviewed Monzer during a two-day visit with him at his headquarters and at his home, in a suburb of Houston, Texas. We have also exchanged follow-up telephone calls since the in-person interviews.

In Houston, Monzer developed large commercial real estate projects in the late 1970s. He had successfully negotiated with both Lebanese and European investors to back him in major real estate projects in Houston. He described being caught in the major real estate recession in Houston in the 1980s. According to Monzer, “The recession was more like a depression, and many developers went broke.”

The banks that had provided Monzer’s construction loans failed and he could not get the loans that he needed to complete the buildings that he already had under construction. Monzer had personally signed for these loans. The foreign investors told Monzer, “Don’t worry about it.” And then not only did they not help, but they demanded their money back.

These events caused Monzer a major business and financial problem. “During all this time, my partners in the middle of all this, my foreign partners, asked for all their money back.” He worked hard to turn around the various projects and was successful, in spite of adversity and obstacles. Then he added, “I paid them [the investors] back.”

The Resolution Trust Corporation was established by the U.S. Congress to resolve problems with Savings and Loans, as well as Banks. According to Monzer, the RTC not only refused the remaining loan funds, but also wanted Monzer to immediately pay off his loans on the uncompleted projects.

Monzer had “offered my personal real estate and investment lands as additional collateral to the RTC” and asked them to continue to fund his loans. “My land was taken by the RTC, then sold at bargain prices to their friends in less than arms-length transactions,” leaving Monzer with a deficit still owed to the RTC. He had to battle “the Resolution Trust Corporation, which was full of ignorance, stupidity, and graft, in my opinion.”
His land was taken and sold to others and Monzer was left with debt. He was then sued for over a quarter of a billion dollars.

Monzer’s lawyers advised him to file bankruptcy, but he paid off his debt without doing so. Monzer said, “In spite of literally living in hell as a developer, I kept my word.”

In the 1990s, Monzer rebuilt his real estate development business. His firm has “built tens of millions of square feet of hospitals, high technology-integrated medical office buildings, and large office buildings.”

Many of the major medical office building projects in development at that time were for HealthSouth. Accounting irregularities were discovered at HealthSouth which lead to the arrest, but not conviction, of its chairman, Richard Scrushy and the near destruction of HealthSouth, as a firm.

Monzer again faced a major financial crisis. Refinancing by a new financial partner has allowed Monzer and Medistar to continue to grow. Monzer summed up his journey as a leader: “We survived the Houston disaster in real estate. We are a successful Houston developer, which is an endangered species.” Monzer Hourani and his entire team at Medistar are working daily to serve the medical office building development and state-of-the-art hospital construction needs of the medical community throughout the entire United States.

Copyright 2006 © Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

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