Ara Oztemel

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Ara Oztemel who built a fortune by cultivating trade between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war, died on Feb. 2 1998 at a Miami hospital. He was 71 and had retired to Key Biscayne, Fla., from his home in Greenwich, Conn.

Mr. Oztemel was survived by his wife, Mary; two daughters, Katherine Carporale of Laguna Nigel, Calif., and Susan Barnes of Berwyn, Pa.;and three sons, Glenn Oztemel, Greg Oztemel of Moscow, and Gary Oztemel of Riverside, Conn.[1]

Early life

Mr. Oztemel was born in Istanbul in 1926, the son of an architect who had changed his Armenian name to one less likely to cause him trouble after the World War I suppression of Armenians by Turks. In 1943, when he was 17, his parents sent him to Cairo, expecting him to find his way to the United States to study engineering.

Two years later he signed on as a seaman with a merchant ship bound for Boston, heading not for school but for smoky bars where he could play jazz on his saxophone and clarinet. Once he had run through his money, though, he started studies at Northeastern University and to support himself ran a nickel and chrome plating business, which he sold for $83,000 when he graduated in 1952.[2]

Soviet trade

On a visit to Turkey Oztemel met a chrome miner and started to ponder the money he could make if only he could get his hands on a steady supply of the metal. The output of mines from Rhodesia to the Philippines was under contract, he soon discovered, so he arranged to meet Anastas Mikoyan, a fellow Armenian who was Stalin's trade minister, and won his first contract. Union Carbide bought all the chrome ore he could buy, his son said.

By 1975, Dunn's estimated, he had built a $25 million fortune, money that helped him rescue the summer season at the Metropolitan Opera House and a 31-city tour by the Bolshoi Opera and the Royal Ballet, which had been entangled in the bankruptcy of their tour sponsor.

In the 1950's and 1960's as much as 80 percent of trade between the United States and the Soviet Union was handled by Oztemels's Satra Trading Company, Dunn's Review reported in a 1975 profile. Satra stood for Soviet American trade.

the company, based in Manhattan and Moscow, sold Soviet ore -- mostly iron, chrome and nickel -- to companies in the United States and Britain, and it sold United States Steel's finished products to the Soviet Union, among other deals. He also imported Soviet farm equipment and automobiles, neither of which won much favor with American and Canadian buyers.[3]

Hammer rival

During the most bitter years of the cold war Mr. Oztemel was one of two American businessmen the Soviets allowed to have private homes in Moscow. The other was Armand Hammer, a bitter rival once accused by Mr. Oztemel of seeking an interview with him just so he could gather intelligence to make his own chrome ore deal, a charge Dr. Hammer denied.[4]

Not political?

There were other times when Mr. Oztemel delighted in people trying to glean insights from him. The C.I.A., F.B.I., K.G.B., they all sent people to interview my father and he enjoyed it, his son, Glenn, an oil trader in Westport, Conn., said. My father was not a political man; he was interested in business, but when perestroika came he was very depressed because he feared that those things that were good in the Soviet system would be overwhelmed, that capitalism would come too fast and that the Russian mafia would rise in power and there would be a lot of pain.[5]

Institute for Policy Studies

Ara Oztemel was a member[6]of the Institute for Policy Studies 20th Anniversary Committee, which organized an April 5, 1983, reception at the National Building Museum, Washington DC attended by approximately 1,000 IPS staffers and former staff.

In 1993 Ara Oztemel was listed[7] among former "Trustees" of the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC.


  1. NY Times, February 9, 1998
  2. NY Times, february 9, 1998
  3. NY Times, February 9, 1998
  4. NY Times, February 9, 1998
  5. NY Times, February 9, 1998
  6. Information Digest April l5, 1983 p77-79
  7. Institute for Policy Studies 30th Anniversary brochure