Sophien Bennaceur defines her latest movement in the business world as a good fusion between an artist and entrepreneur.
Bennaceur, founder of Triplanet Capital and Phoenicia Capital Investments — with offices in Wall Street, London and Tunisia — has created more than 50 technology and communications companies. He’s also served as a consultant to investors of companies such as the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, and towards the end of 2014 ran as a presidential candidate in Tunisia.
The 53-year-old businessman, who has been living in the United States for the past 33 years, now includes Miami in his agenda.
He has recently involved himself in the field of hospitality management through his work with the Metropolitan Hospitality Group and has partnered with artist Chico Castillo. Castillo was born in France to Spanish parents and is recognized internationally for his prowess playing the Flamenco guitar and for creating music and entertainment under the label, Gypsy Fusion.
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One of the first projects of the group is the creation of restaurants La Terrasse and Rouge.
“This is part of a growth plan,” said Bennaceur. “I’m a very intense businessman and I’m used to accomplishing the goals I set for myself.”
Bennaceur and Castillo have been friends for many years and usually vacation together in Southern France. One of the many conversations resulted in the idea of creating a brand of restaurants characterized by the Mediterranean.
“Chico’s second home is Miami and I, who am also Mediterranean, wanted to make Miami my home as well,” said Bennaceur.
The first restaurant La Terrasse opened up four months ago at 22 Washington Ave. on Miami Beach a week from now. The same restaurant group inaugurated the Rouge restaurant in New York.
La Terrasse’s menú is distinctive because it’s inspired by Southern French cuisine. It’s kitchen houses organic ingredients and is led by Chef Anthony Grini, who previously worked in restaurants in St. Barts, Nice and Monaco.
“I was his client in some of those restaurants and that’s why I asked him to come to Miami,” said Bennaceur.
Aside from offering French food, La Terrasse also will offer art and music, featuring local artists and Gypsy Fusion shows on Saturdays.
Future plans call for opening a total of 10 restaurants across the country, including Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The Metropolitan Hospitality Group will also research proposals from several hotels and assess if it can provide food and wine services for them. La Terrasse brand Prosecco wines as well as organic Olive oils will also be sold in several airport stores.
Castillo, who penned “Alabina,” a song that mixes Arabic and gypsy tunes and which has sold more than five million copies worldwide, is spearheading the production of a new album, an international tour and a new line of “gypsy” guitars. The guitars are designed by him and fabricated in Andalusia, Spain. Castillo is also set to be the spokesman for lotion and cosmetics brand www.BrillianceNewYork.com.
“There’s a natural synergy between the Mediterranean and Miami,” said Bennaceur, who also announced that he will soon open offices for his company in the Brickell Avenue area.
However, Bennaceur, who is also the founder and president of The American Tunisian Business Council, a foundation that promotes bilateral economic relations between the United States and Tunisia, hasn’t forgetten his political aspirations.
Despite not having won the 2014 elections, his plan is to continue working on the creation of a political party that he defines as being modern, inspired by the youth, and in which capitalism and open markets mirror those he grew up with in the United States.
“In five years, I’m going to run in the presidential elections in Tunisia again,” he said.
Follow Ivonne Gómez on Twitter @Ivonnegomezcam