Al-Waleed bin Talal

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HRH Prince
Al-Waleed Bin Talal
Native name Alwaleed bin Talal
Born (1955-03-07) 7 March 1955 (age 62)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Residence Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Nationality Saudi
Lebanese[1]
Alma mater Menlo College
Syracuse University
Occupation Chairman & CEO of Kingdom Holding Company
Years active 1979–present
Net worth $19.1 billion (As of 31 March 2017)[2]
Spouse(s) Dalal bint Saud bin Abdulaziz (divorced)
Eman bint Naser bin Abdullah al Sudairi (divorced)
Ameera al-Taweel (divorced)

Al-Waleed Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud (Arabic: الوليد بن طلال بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود‎‎, born 7 March 1955)[3] is a Saudi businessman, investor and philanthropist and a member of the Saudi royal family. He was listed on Time magazine's Time 100, an annual list of the hundred most influential people in the world, in 2008.[4] Al-Waleed is a grandson of Ibn Saud, the first Saudi king, a half-nephew of all Saudi kings since, and a grandson of Riad Al Solh (Lebanon's first prime minister).

He is the founder, chief executive officer and 95-percent owner[5] of the Kingdom Holding Company, a Forbes Global 2000 company with investments in companies in the financial services, tourism and hospitality, mass media, entertainment, retail, agriculture, petrochemicals, aviation, technology and real-estate sectors.[6] The company had a market capitalization of over $18 billion in 2013.[7] Al-Waleed is Citigroup's largest individual shareholder, the second-largest voting shareholder in 21st Century Fox, and owns Paris' Four Seasons Hotel George V and part of the Plaza Hotel.[8][9] Time has called him the "Arabian Warren Buffett".[10][self-published source] In March 2016 Forbes listed Al-Waleed as the 41st richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $17.3 billion.[11]

The previous year, he announced that he would donate his fortune to charity at an unspecified date. Some of the reasons he cited were to foster cultural understanding and empower women.[12]

Early life and education[edit]

Al-Waleed was born in Jeddah on 7 March 1955[13][14] to Prince Talal and Mona Al Solh, daughter of Riad Al Solh (Lebanon's first prime minister).[15][16] His father was Saudi Arabia’s finance minister during the early 1960s,[17] before he went into exile due to his advocacy for political reform.[18] Al-Waleed's grandmother was an Armenian, Munaiyir, whose family escaped the Armenian Genocide. She was presented by the emir of Unayza to Ibn Saud in 1921, when she was 12 years old and Ibn Saud was 45.[19]

Al-Waleed's parents separated when he was seven, and he lived with his mother in Lebanon.[18] As a boy, he ran away from home for a day or two at a time (sleeping in unlocked cars) before attending military school in Riyadh.[18] Al-Waleed received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Menlo College in California in 1979,[20] and a master's degree with honors in social science from Syracuse University in 1985.[21]

Business career[edit]

Al-Waleed began his business career in 1979 after graduating from Menlo College. He returned to Saudi Arabia, which was in the midst of the 1974–85 oil boom.[22] Operating from a small, pre-fabricated office in Riyadh, al-Waleed was successful in construction contracts and real estate. He was first profiled by Forbes in 1988.

After the end of the Saudi oil boom, al-Waleed acquired the underperforming United Saudi Commercial Bank. Through mergers with Saudi Cairo Bank and the Saudi American Bank, it became a leading Middle Eastern bank.[23]

He bought a substantial tranche of shares in Citicorp in 1991, when the company was in crisis. From an initial investment of $550 million ($2.98 per share after adjustments for stock splits, acquisitions and spin-offs, according to Bloomberg calculations) to bail out Citibank's underperforming American real-estate and Latin American business-loan portfolios, his holdings in Citigroup grew to about $1 billion.

Time reported in 1997 that al-Waleed owned about five percent of News Corporation.[24] In 2010 his News Corporation stake was about seven percent ($3 billion). Three years later News Corporation had a $175 million (19-percent) investment in al-Waleed's Rotana Group, the Arab world's largest entertainment company. A review of his holdings implied that al-Waleed had sold his investment in AOL.[25]

His stake in Citibank accounted for approximately half his wealth before the financial crisis of 2007–08. At the end of 1990 al-Waleed bought 4.9 percent of Citicorp’s common stock for $207 million ($12.46 per share), the maximum before he would be legally obliged to declare his investment. In February 1991 he spent $590 million on new preferred shares, convertible to common shares at $16 each. This, an additional 10 percent of Citicorp, brought al-Waleed's stake to 14.9 percent.[26]

In 1999 The Economist expressed doubts about the source of his income, wondering if he was a front man for other Saudi investors:

He has not earned enough income from his investments to pay for all that he has spent in the 1990s. The mystery goes back to that first stake in Citicorp. The prince has declared that this money came entirely from his personal funds. He says he started out in 1979 with a loan of just $30,000 from his father. He also mortgaged a house that his father had given him, raising something like $400,000. And each month, as a grandson of Ibn Saud, he receives $15,000. You could barely clothe a Saudi prince for such sums, let alone furnish him with a multi-billion-dollar empire. Nevertheless, by 1991 Prince Alwaleed had felt able to risk an investment of $797m in Citicorp.[26]

Al-Waleed invested in AOL, Apple, MCI, Motorola, Fox Broadcasting and other technology and media companies.[27] His stake in Apple was sold in 2005.[18] Al-Waleed also invested in Eastman Kodak and TWA, both of which performed poorly.[28]

His real-estate holdings included large stakes in the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and New York's Plaza Hotel; al-Waleed sold half his shares in the latter in August 2004. He has invested in London's Savoy Hotel and Monaco's Monte Carlo Grand Hotel. Al-Waleed holds a ten-percent stake in Euro Disney SCA, the company which owns, manages and maintains Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée.[29]

Cramped, older hotel entrance
The Savoy Hotel in London is owned by al-Waleed.

In January 2005 Al-Waleed purchased the Savoy Hotel in London for an estimated £250 million, to be managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts; his sister, Sultana Nurul, owns an estimated 16-percent stake. In January 2006, in partnership with the U.S. real-estate firm Colony Capital, Kingdom Holding acquired Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts for an estimated $3.9 billion. It was reported in 2009 that Al-Waleed owned 35 percent of Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), a large Mideast media company.[30]

In August 2011 al-Waleed announced that his company had contracted with the Bin Laden Group to build the world's tallest building, the Kingdom Tower (at a height of at least 1,000 metres (3,300 ft)) for SR 4.6 billion.[31] The original plan—announced in 2008—called it برج الميل (Arabic for "One-Mile Tower"), at a height of 1,609 metres (5,279 ft)[32] and an estimated cost of $20 billion.[33]

In December 2011 Al-Waleed invested $300 million in Twitter, purchasing secondary shares from insiders.[34] The purchase gave Kingdom Holding a "more than 3% share" in the company, which was valued at $8 billion in late summer 2011.[5]

According to research by the Dutch Fiscale inlichtingen- en opsporingsdienst, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal received a bribery of approximate 400 million dollars from the Dutch building company Ballast Nedam.[35]

Forbes dispute[edit]

In 2013 Kerry Dolan, editor of Forbes' annual billionaires' list, wrote an article accompanying the list entitled "Prince Alwaleed and the Curious Case of Kingdom Holding Stock".[18] According to Dolan, al-Waleed attached great importance to the Forbes list and she alleged a correlation between changes in the share price of Kingdom Holdings and the annual run-up to the list's publication.[18] Jeffrey Towson, al-Waleed's former head of direct investments for MENA and Asia-Pacific, published a report on his blog in response to the Forbes article entitled "The 8 Big Mistakes in Forbes' Attack on Prince Alwaleed".[36][self-published source] Towson wrote, "Forbes' explanation of his [al-Waleed's] behavior, his business and his investment strategy is one of the worst I have ever seen. The tone is bad. But the content is worse."[36] According to Towson, the magazine skewed the axis of its published-share-price chart to support the correlation.[36] In the Forbes article, Dolan wrote that al-Waleed would blind copy Dolan on text messages he sent to prominent people in an attempt to impress her. She spent a week with him in Riyadh in 2008, at his behest, touring his palaces. In 2006 Forbes estimated al-Waleed's net worth at $7 billion less than he claimed. He telephoned Dolan at home, according to the editor, "nearly in tears".[18] Al-Waleed had Kingdom Holding's chief financial officer fly to New York before a previous list was published to ensure that Forbes used his stated numbers.[18]

The article explains the methodology behind Forbes' 2013 estimate of his wealth at $20 billion, examines Kingdom Holdings' share performance and contains Dolan's communications with Kingdom Holdings CFO Shadi Sanbar. Sanbar demanded that al-Waleed’s name be removed from the billionaires' list if Forbes did not increase its valuation of his wealth.[18] Dolan wrote, "As Forbes asked increasingly specific questions in the process of fact-checking this story, the prince acted unilaterally the day before it was published, announcing through his office that he would 'sever ties' with the list."[18] Sanbar said in a press release, "Prince Alwaleed has taken this step as he felt he could no longer participate in a process which resulted in the use of incorrect data and seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions."[18]

Al-Waleed said in a March 2013 interview with The Sunday Telegraph that he would pursue legal action against Forbes.[37] "They are accusing me of market manipulation," Al-Waleed said. "This is all wrong and a false statement. We will fight it all the way against Forbes."[37] He called the Forbes list "flawed and inaccurate", saying that it "displays bias against Middle East investors and financial institutions."[37]

The Guardian reported that on 6 June 2013, al-Waleed had brought a defamation claim in London against the publisher of Forbes; its editor, Randall Lane, and two journalists from the magazine.[38] Forbes expressed surprise at the libel action and the fact that it was filed in London.[38] According to the magazine, "The Prince's suit would be precisely the kind of libel tourism that the UK's recently-passed libel reform law is intended to thwart. We would anticipate that the London high court will agree. Forbes stands by its story."[38] As of 20 June, Forbes had not been served with papers.[39]

A statement issued by the Kingdom Holding Company accused Forbes of publishing a "deliberately insulting and inaccurate description of the business community in Saudi Arabia and specifically, Forbes' denigration of the Saudi stock exchange (Tadawul), which is one of the most regulated in the world". According to al-Waleed, the magazine used an "irrational and deeply flawed valuation methodology, which is ultimately subjective and discriminatory".[40]

On 16 June 2015, Forbes and al-Waleed released a joint statement announcing that they had settled their dispute "on mutually agreeable terms". The opening of the Saudi stock exchange to foreign investors was cited as key in the defendants' willingness to consider the stock price of al-Waleed's publicly-traded Kingdom Holding Company in valuing the KHC component of his wealth.[41]

Political views[edit]

Al-Waleed urged Arab nations to give up their hostility toward Israel and seek peaceful coexistence.[42] He later tweeted that the statement was a fabrication.[43][44] Al-Waleed tweeted a statement with a picture of himself holding an honorary Palestinian passport, "In response to the news of the visit to Israel: I have not and will not visit Jerusalem or pray inside it until its liberation from the Zionist enemy. And I carry an honorary Palestinian passport".[45] A Syrian article questioned his statement.[46]

In 2015, al-Waleed was criticised for offering to buy Bentley cars for Saudi fighter pilots involved in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. In a tweet later deleted, he said: "In appreciation of their role in this operation, I'm honoured to offer 100 Bentley cars to the 100 Saudi [fighter] pilots".[47]

Philanthropy[edit]

Al-Waleed is also a philanthropist, and much of his charitable activity is in the field of educational initiatives to bridge gaps between Western and Islamic communities. He has funded centers of American studies in universities in the Middle East and centers of Islamic studies in Western universities, which has made Campus Watch and Jewish American interest groups question the centers' academic autonomy.[48] In 2002, al-Waleed donated $500,000 to help fund the George Herbert Walker Bush scholarship at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.[25] and donated £18.5 million to Palestinian families during a TV telethon ordered by Saudi King Fahd to help relatives of Palestinians after Israeli operations in the West Bank city of Jenin. In 2004, he contributed $17 million to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[49]

On July 1, 2015, al-Waleed held a press conference announcing his intention to donate $32 billion to philanthropic causes. He said that the funds would be used for humanitarian projects such as the empowerment of women and youth, disaster relief, disease eradication and building bridges of understanding between cultures.[50]

Donation after 11 September attacks[edit]

After the September 11 attacks, al-Waleed gave a cheque for $10 million to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, despite Saudi opposition. In a written statement after his donation, he said: "At times like this, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause." As a result of that statement, Giuliani returned his cheque.[51][52] Al-Waleed said to a Saudi weekly magazine about Giuliani's rejection of his cheque, "The whole issue is that I spoke about their position [on the Middle East conflict] and they didn’t like it because there are Jewish pressures and they are afraid of them."[53]

Western universities[edit]

In 2005, al-Waleed gave Georgetown University the second-largest donation in history to create the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) in the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. On 8 May 2008, al-Waleed gave £16 million to Edinburgh University to fund a "centre for the study of Islam in the contemporary world."[54] He has also endowed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR).[55] The Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medical College is named for al-Waleed.[56] The Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge also bears the name of Al-Waleed,[57] and the Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University are also named for him.[58][59]

First Saudi female pilot[edit]

Al-Waleed is considered a proponent of female emancipation in the Saudi world. He financed the training of Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi as the first Saudi woman commercial airline pilot, and said at her graduation that he is "in full support of Saudi ladies working in all fields".[60] Al-Hindi became certified to fly within Saudi Arabia in 2014.[61]

Assets[edit]

Large yacht at a dock
Kingdom 5KR

Al-Waleed owns the 65th-largest private yacht in the world, the 85.9-meter (282-ft) Kingdom 5KR (originally built as the Nabila for Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi in 1979). In 1983, owned by Khashoggi, it appeared as the Flying Saucer (the yacht of James Bond's villain, Largo) in Never Say Never Again. It was sold to Donald Trump, who renamed her the Trump Princess. Al-Waleed bought the yacht after Trump's was experiencing financial problems in the late 1980s.[62]

Al-Waleed ordered a yacht known as the New Kingdom 5KR, about 173 meters (567 ft) long with an estimated cost of over $500 million. The yacht is designed by Lindsey Design, and its design was delivered in late 2010.[63] However, there has been no recent news regarding the yacht.

He owns several aircraft converted for private use: a Boeing 747,[64] an Airbus 321 and a Hawker Siddeley 125. Al-Waleed was the first individual to purchase an Airbus A380 and was due to take delivery of it in the spring of 2013, but it was sold before delivery.[28]

Among his assets are a 95-percent stake in Kingdom Holding Company; 91-percent ownership of Rotana Video and Audio Visual Company; 90-percent ownership of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation; seven-percent ownership of News Corporation; about six-percent ownership of Citigroup, and a 17-percent ownership of Al Nahar and a 25-percent ownership of Ad-Diyar (two daily newspapers published in Lebanon). Al-Waleed topped the first Saudi Rich List in 2009, with assets of $16.3 billion.[65]

Palaces[edit]

Al-Waleed owns three palaces: two existing and a third under construction. The 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) Kingdom Palace, in central Riyadh, is his primary home. According to Time magazine, "Al-Waleed and his two wives live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a $130 million sand-colored palace whose 317 rooms are adorned with 1,500 tons of Italian marble, silk oriental carpets, gold-plated faucets and 250 TVs. It has four kitchens, for Arabic, Continental and Asian cuisines, and a fifth just for dishing up desserts, run by chefs who can feed 2,000 people on an hour's notice. There is also a lagoon-shaped pool and a 45-seat basement cinema".[66] The 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) Kingdom Resort, also in central Riyadh, has three lakes interspersed with gardens. The 4,000,000-square-foot (370,000 m2) Kingdom Oasis, under construction, will have a 70,000-square-metre (17-acre) lake and a private zoo.

Awards[edit]

Al-Waleed received the first order[67] of the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia[68] in 2002 and is a recipient of the Lebanese National Order of the Cedar.[68] On 2 December 2009, he received the Order of Izzudin from Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed;[69] that year he also received the Star of Palestine, the highest honour conferred by the State of Palestine.[70] In 2010, al-Waleed received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Innovation.[71] He received the Bahrain Medal of the First Order, the country’s highest honorary medal in late May 2012.[72] He received the Nepalese third-order Mahaujjval Rastradip Manpadvi, the highest award bestowed on a foreigner,[73] and Guinea-Bissau's Colina De Boe Medal in August 2012.[74] In June 2013 al-Waleed was made Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone (GCRSL), the country's highest honour.[75] On 13 December 2014, he was made an Honorary Companion of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta.[76]

Honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Al-Waleed's first wife was his cousin, Dalal bint Saud, a daughter of King Saud. They have two children (Prince Khaled,[78] born 1978 and Princess Reem, born 1982),[79] and later divorced.[80] His third wife was Ameera al-Taweel; after about six years of marriage, they divorced in 2014.[81] In an interview, he said: "Yes, I announce it through Okaz-Saudi Gazette for the first time. I have officially separated from Princess Ameera Al-Taweel, but she remains a person that I have all respect for."[82]

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]