The Chemla File Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2010

Born: I was born in Tunisia when Tunisia was a French colony, and then when Tunisia [gained independence] we moved back to France, so I was in France when I was 9 years old.

Education: Cachan University, outside of Paris. Studied economics and business for two years.

Career: I left [Cachan] to help my father. He was in a clothing business and I was doing beautiful dresses and skirts. I did that for many years, and then decided to move to the United States, where I really wanted to go.

I got the opportunity when I sat down with my friend of Club Med, who his father was a founder of Club Med sent him to United States to run the North American operations. He approached me and said, ‘Would you want to work with me? … Come, and if you don’t like it, you can always start your own business.’

That was in 1981, and in 1990, I gave my resignation. … The chairman of the board of Club Med was also a good friend of mine, and he told me, ‘You know, you’re leaving in ’91. I tell you something, as an executive of Club Med, I’m very sad to see you go because you are one of the best executives. And as a friend of yours, I think you’re out of your mind because no one opens a business in ’91 when it’s a recession and the Gulf War.’

It was great because, you know what, you come here in the land of opportunity and you have a possibility of doing [anything]. What I’ve always loved is entrepreneurial mentality and this country gives you the right to do it and this country opens the door for anything you want as long as you operate legally and properly. Then you have all doors open for you. There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished here in Europe. Absolutely no way.

Where is your favorite travel destination?

Morocco would be one of them, and Bali would be another one. There is something in the air for me. There’s this incredible smell that makes you feel like you’re really on vacation.