Astani is chairman of Astani Enterprises, Inc., one of the largest niche real-estate development companies in Los Angeles today, with investments valued at more than $1 billion. His firm owns or operates approximately 4,000 apartment units and lofts in the city and is currently building 2,000 condos and lofts in downtown L.A. These include three major residential projects, featuring iconic residential towers and lofts: the Concerto, a mixed-use, twin-tower complex standing 32 stories tall, with 27,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and spas; the 38-story Grand project; and Vero, located at 1234 Wilshire Blvd.
Astani serves on the Executive Committee of the Central City Association, on the Board of Councilors of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate Development. He is also a board member of the Pacific Council for International Affairs.
His roots go back to Mashhad, Iran, one of the largest and holiest Persian cities. The oldest of four siblings, Astani was born into a military family in 1953, living in barracks the first four years of his life. Mashhad was the seat of commerce and industry in the Khorasan Province, located 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Tehran. In 1957, Astani’s family moved to Tehran, where he was educated.
“In Iran, if you wanted to have a successful future, you either became an engineer or a doctor,” Astani says. “You have to decide very early on, because one career means you take a lot of math, the other a lot of biology. It’s really difficult to get into the good universities in Iran, so you have to start very early, just like in India and China today. From the fourth grade, while everyone else was outside playing soccer, I was studying math.”
From a young age, his dream had always been “to become an engineer with some higher degree from the United States.” But that meant he had to get into Sharif University of Technology, which has a high-quality engineering program, then stay afloat through a rigorous four-year curriculum.
“Nine out of 10 people flunked the college entrance exam because it was very difficult. Throughout high school, you had nightmares of flunking this exam, and they only administered it once a year,” Astani says.