Makarechian was born in Iran in 1948, where his family owned the country's largest construction and development company. According to David Brooks, "the family had intimate connections both to the Shah and the US military."
He came to the US in 1965, where he attended and graduated from the University of Buffalo. From 1971-79 he worked for the Day Group Companies in Tehran. He returned to the United States in 1979. From 1979 to 1991, he was managing director of the Shamron Corporation, Rockville, Maryland. From 1991, he was chairman of Capital Pacific Homes of Newport Beach, California.