Wafic Rida Said is a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, the founder and Chairman of the Said Foundation, a non-sectarian and non-political charity which works for a brighter future for children in need and talented young people in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Arabs in Israel and the founding benefactor of the Said Business School at Oxford University. Through his philanthropic donations of over £100 million he has helped around 750 talented students from the Middle East access an education that they could not otherwise afford and founded a world class business school which is building a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Said started his business career in Banking when he joined UBS in Geneva in 1963. In 1969, he established a project development and construction management business in Saudi Arabia. The following two decades, during the period when Saudi Arabia was building its infrastructure, saw his group handle some of the largest public sector projects in the Kingdom. He became a billionaire through his connections with the Saudi royal family, acting as an advisor and consultant on many major infrastructure, industrial and defence related projects including the multi-billion dollar Al-Yamamah project which was considered controversial at the time but Saïd believed it was not. In an interview with Forward Magazine, Saïd explained to Syrian journalist Sami Moubayed saying:
"It is no secret, I have great affection for Britain and I am a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher. I was asked by her government to advise and help them secure the al-Yamamah contract, one of the biggest procurement contracts ever, because of my wide knowledge of Saudi Arabia and my contacts there. I was convinced that this was a strategically important contract for both Britain and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia needed the technology and Britain’s support for their air force, and Britain needed to save its struggling aeronautical industry and to create thousands of jobs. I am very proud of the small part I played in helping Prime Minister Thatcher secure 'the contract of the century' for Britain, but sadly some of the press chooses not see it that way."
He is Chairman of Said Holdings Limited, an investment holding company incorporated in Bermuda, with investments in Europe, North America and the Far East. It has diverse portfolios, which include fixed income, quoted equities, hedge funds, private equity and real assets including real estate.
In 1982 he founded The Karim Rida Saïd Foundation, now "Saïd Foundation", a UK registered charity that aims to bring positive and lasting change to the lives of children and young people in the Middle East and promote better understanding between Western and Arab/Islamic cultures.
Saïd Business School
In 1996, Wafic Saïd donated £23 million to establish the Saïd Business School, at the University of Oxford and has since established a Strategic Development Fund for the School with a capital value of £25 million and committed another £15 million to construct a new building that houses the Saïd Business School Centre for Executive Education. Saïd also provided substantial funding for the establishment of the Wafic Saïd Molecular Cardiology & Gene Therapy Research Laboratory at the Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Houston, Texas. In 2003 he became the first recipient of the Sheldon Medal, which had been newly established by Oxford University to honour exceptional supporters of the University. He is also a member of Oxford University Court of Benefactors, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. In April 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Damascus University for his "important philanthropic contribution for Higher Education in Syria".
In 2000 Saïd commissioned architect Sir William Whitfield to design on the site of an old country house a neo-Palladian country house, Tusmore Park in Oxfordshire, England. In 2004 the Georgian Group gave Tusmore Park its award for the best new building in the classical tradition. He also has houses in Monaco, London, Paris and Marbella.
Saïd is Ambassador and Head of the delegation of St Vincent and the Grenadines to UNESCO since 1996 (hence his entitlement to the style 'His Excellency' chiefly used in the context of his diplomatic role). He has also been appointed since December 2012 Ambassador to the Holy See.
As "Grand Commandeur", Mr Saïd holds the "Ordre de Mérite du Cèdre" of Lebanon and the "Ordre Chérifien" of Morocco.
- Ian Drury (17 November 2008). "Now Cameron faces dodgy donations row after 'daddy's girl' daughter of Saudi arms dealer gave Tories £50k". Daily Mail. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
- The education path of Wafic Said, an interview with Forward Magazine
- The Georgian Group
- UNESCO webpage re Saïd's Ambassadorial appointment
- t Sunday Times Rich List 2007 online edition