One year ago, GW alumnus and real estate broker Jason Haber turned down a deal that would have made his company millions of dollars. Instead, it made him a hero.
When agents for Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi tried to rent a townhouse from Haber’s New York-based firm, Haber refused their offer.
“Why don’t you send Megrahi back to Scotland and then we’ll talk,” Haber told the agent, referring to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, who blew up Pan Am Flight 103 headed for Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Megrahi had recently been released from a Scottish prison after being diagnosed with cancer.
Haber’s response earned him mentions on Fox News and in the New York Post. Soon after, he received thousands of e-mails from people across the country who wanted to acknowledge his boldness, some of whom were family members of the 270 people who died on the flight.
“I found it amazing that I could do things in real estate to make a difference,” said Haber, who received a bachelor’s degree in political communication from GW in 1999. “I started thinking, ‘How can I do more?'”
Haber said the event motivated him and his brother to launch Rubicon Property, a real estate brokerage firm with a socially-conscious business model called “Profits & Purpose.” According to the company’s website, it is the first to incorporate the principles of social entrepreneurship into its core values.
With each business transaction, a portion of the company’s profits goes directly to the nonprofit organization charity: water, which aims to bring clean drinking water to people in developing nations.
Haber said he chose to focus on clean water access because he wanted “to connect the essential element of living in the United States, which is real estate, with the essential element of living in the developing world, which is water.”
He added that the problem also has a relatively easy solution.
“It’s not too complex to fix, we just need to get the resources, which is the funding. We can put real dollars on the ground and make an immediate difference,” Haber said.
The profits going to charity: water will be used to build wells in the Central African Republic, one of the poorest nations in the world.
“In the United States, we water our streets with clean water. We water our grass with it,” Haber said. “We take advantage of something that so many people are lacking.”
Haber joked that his idea will help bring “honor” and “integrity” to a profession that is just one step up from a used-car salesperson.
“Usually when you tell people you’re in real estate, they take a step back because they think you’re about to sell them something,” Haber said. “When I tell people what I do, they step forward and ask, ‘How do you do that?'”
Although Haber left GW more than a decade ago, he said he still makes four or five trips a year to the University with the Alumni Association and the Luther Rice Society.
“GW meant everything to me. It helped shape me into the person I am today,” said Haber, who also served as executive vice president of the Student Association.
Although Rubicon Property opened its doors less than two weeks ago, Haber said he is confident the enterprise will thrive, primarily because of its unique pitch.
“We think the message will be very appealing to buyers across the U.S.,” he said. “People will be excited to work with us not because of what we do but why we do it. Our ‘why’ is completely unique.”