From dreaming of becoming a film director to doing Oscar-worthy business

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In 2019, Alexandrion will celebrate a quarter of a century since Nawaf Salameh laid the foundation for the group, which was a thriving success, particularly after 2001.

Over the past two years, the Romanian entrepreneur of Syrian origin has spent most of his time on developing a world-class project. It’s not easy to “fight against” the global alcoholic beverage makers, but when you do, especially if it’s on their territory, it means you are either “insanely courageous” or simply that the experience you’ve accumulated pushes you to believe in your purpose. 

“On the film set”

Even though what you’ve read above may seem like big words, it’s the truth. In order to get to this truth, you must first discover the man and learn his story. Nawaf Salameh comes from a family of entrepreneurs from Marmarita, but he didn’t want to take over his father’s businesses, and instead wanted to become a film director. In his teenage years, he’d dream of the Hollywood film sets. Fate led him on a different path, however, and he became a medical student.

And not just anywhere, but here, in Romania. Following his mother’s advice, he chose our country for the similarities between the Orthodox Church and the Church of Antioch. He turned 17 on the day he came to Romania, and he was very surprised to see that the border control agents who checked his documents told him “Welcome to Romania” and wished him a happy birthday, too.

He graduated Medicine shortly after the Revolution, but chose to specialise and do his residency in Greece. Two years later, he gave up the white coat and became an entrepreneur. He started trading confectionery, and then he took over a small distillery in Greece.

“I became a businessman in Greece, but the place where I had grown up after I turned 17 was Romania. I couldn’t have chosen another country,” he says. In the beginning, the products manufactured in Crete were being distributed to Romania and its neighbouring countries. Later, he makes the first investment in Prahova County, which led him to become the leader of the alcoholic beverages market in just a few years. “I chose the name Alexandrion because it was my best-selling product, and the business took off after the year 2000,” Nawaf Salameh recalls.

Development on several continents

Alexandrion Group is now the leader of the alcoholic beverages production and distribution market in Romania. The group comprises the Alexandrion and SABER 1789 Distilleries, which together have a history of more than 200 years on the local spirits market, as well as vineyards and a wine production unit. This summer, Alexandrion Group signed a deal with New York State to open its first distillery in the United States. The group’s total investment will reach approximately USD 100 million.

The project, which is designed to be developed over five years, will create 102 new jobs in New York and other US states. When construction will be completed in 2020, the new distillery will produce premium spirits, adapted to the US market, such as whisky, bourbon, gin, brandy, and vodka. These products will be distributed across America, but they will also be exported to the 50 countries currently in the group’s distribution portfolio.

Brâncoveanu crosses borders

One of Alexandrion Group’s most renowned products is Brancoveanu. Nawaf Salameh says that the Brancoveanu brandy has become one of the most exported products due to Romanians who are sending gift packages abroad. “Out of 100 gifts sent by Romanians to other countries, 99 of them contain the Brancoveanu brandy. It’s not only about quality, but also about the Romanian story and tradition,” the entrepreneur explains.

At the beginning of October 2018, Nawaf Salameh, the founder and president of the Alexandrion Foundation, said he was happy about the fact that the Constantin Brancoveanu Awards are at their fifth edition in Romania’s Centenary year. “We have managed to reach new stages with these awards: the diaspora and the international market. This opening towards the world has led us to Cyprus, the UK, Germany and the US. The year’s end will bring with it my tribute to those who gave their lives for the Great Union,” said Nawaf Salameh.

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