Mahmoud Khayami (1930-2020)

March 17, 2020

Mahmoud Khayami, the well-known philanthropist, industrialist, and financier, was born in Mashhad on 7 January 1930 and passed away in Los Angeles on 28 February  2020. 

He was a self-made man and an accomplished entrepreneur who began his adult life with meager resources and yet in a short period of time, with the help of his brother, Ahmad Khayami, founded “Iran National Company,” the largest industrial complex in Iran. The company produced the popular Peykan cars in 1967, a joint venture with the Hillman-Hunter company of England. By 1979, 100,000 cars were produced annually with approximately 44 percent of the parts manufactured in Iran.

In 1979, following the upheavals in Iran, he settled in London, managing the distribution of Mercedes-Benz cars in both Britain and the United States, as well as continuing his philanthropic activities through The Mahmoud Khayami Foundation. 

Khayami was an indefatigable champion of many cultural causes, and a considerable number of individuals and institutions in need of assistance have benefited from his charitable donations. Among his philanthropic efforts in education, the Khayami Foundation established 32 Mahmoudieh Schools in Khorasan, and provided them all with the necessary educational equipment and facilities. 

Khayami’s deep love of reading and his interest in Persian literature were widely known. When a traveler from Iran presented him with the multi-volume History of Persian Literature by Zabihollah Safa, Khayami is quoted as saying: “I have already read the book and have some questions about some of its passages that I would like to discuss.” In another instance, in a letter to Mohammad-Ali Eslami Nodushan, the founding director of the Shahnameh Foundation, he expressed his readiness to offer a generous grant to the Foundation for Research on Ferdowsi and his Shahnameh. His fine private collection of Persian art is a testimony to his erudite knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the field.

Khayami’s cultural interests concurred with the Encyclopaedia Iranica’s mission of recording, preserving, and disseminating research on Iranian history and civilization. In 2001, he was unanimously elected as Chairman of the Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, a project that he had already been inconspicuously supporting for several years. Under his chairmanship a number of successful Gala Benefit Dinners were held in New York, Houston, London, Los Angeles and Miami and the Foundation was able to substantially enlarge its endowment. At the end of his term in 2005, Mahmoud Khayami was unanimously elected as Lifetime Honorary Chair of the Foundation.

The Yarshater Center staff express their deep appreciation of Mr. Khayami’s unfailing support of the Encyclopaedia Iranica project over the years, and extend their condolences to his family and friends.