Selim Zilkha was born in Bagdad in 1927. He grew up in Lebanon and then in Egypt. His family emigrated to the US in 1941. He graduated with a BA from Williams College and after serving in the US Army worked for his father in the banking business. He was living in England in 1960 when he founded Mothercare, a chain of stores that specialized in everything for the mother-to-be and her baby. Mothercare became a large international success, with shops on high streets all over Europe. In 1982 Selim sold Mothercare and moved back to the United States where he founded Zilkha Energy Company, an oil and gas exploration company which by the time it was sold in 1998 had become the largest acreage owner on the shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. He subsequently founded Zilkha Renewable Energy Company (now Horizon Wind Energy) which when it was sold to Energias de Portugal in 2007 was the second largest wind developer in the United States.
Selim's principal business currently, Zilkha Biomass Energy, has developed a black pellet made from wood which can be used to co-fire or replace coal in coal plants. He also has a farming project in the Yucatan growing Jatropha for biodiesel. Selim had always dreamed of farming in California. In 1998 he was fortunate to acquire Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. Since then he has considerably expanded it and has worked with President and Head Winemaker, Eric Hickey, and Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, to develop the best farming practices that support long-term sustainability.