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Summary Article: Prince Al-Walid bin Talal Billionaire member of Saudi royal family and international investor from QFinance: The Ultimate Resource
LIFE AND CAREER

Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, commonly known as Prince Al-Walid, is a member of the Saudi royal family, his grandfather being Abdul Aziz al Saud, the founding king of Saudi Arabia. He is an entrepreneur, businessman, and international investor who began his business career after graduating from Menlo College, funded by a US$30,000 loan from his father and a US$300,000 mortgage on his house. He initially brokered deals with foreign firms wishing to do business in Saudi Arabia, before negotiating land deals in the 1980s, and some major investments in the Saudi banking industry. He continued to amass his fortune through investments in real estate, and the stock market. He is a Lebanese citizen, after his mother, and has been a special envoy for UNICEF. He has received many honorary degrees and academic awards, and is heavily involved in charitable activities across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It is estimated that he donates more than US$100 million annually to charity.

KEY THINKING
  • Al-Walid is said to be the world’s most influential Arab businessman, and one of the richest people in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$30 billion.

  • He started his investment career in Saudi Arabia, through joint ventures with foreign companies, reinvesting the profits in real estate in Riyadh that greatly appreciated in value.

  • He then focused on the country’s bankin sector, taking a controlling stake in the unprofitable United Saudi Commercial Bank (USCB) in 1986, returning it to profit within two years.

  • In the late 1980s, he extended his investment portfolio out of the Middle East, buying shares in a number of US banks, before focusing all his bank investments in Citicorp.

  • After many further strategic investments, the bulk of his fortune is now invested in a variety of high-profile US corporations—he is the largest single foreign investor in the country.

  • He donated US$10 million to a relief fund after the attack on the World Trade Center, but became a controversial figure after asking the US to re-examine its policies in the Middle East; Mayor Giuliani returned the donation.

  • In the Middle East, however, the confrontation turned him into one of the most respected public figures in the Arab world.

  • He has also contributed a considerable amount to educational initiatives focused on uniting the gap between Western and Islamic communities; in 2005, he donated US$20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown universities to fund Islamic studies.

  • In 2005, he purchased the Savoy hotel in London for £250 million, and donated US$20 million to the Louvre Museum in Paris, to help fund the construction of a wing for its collection of Islamic art.

  • He donated US$500,000 towards a fund to honor former US president, George H. W. Bush in 2002.

  • His latest project is the Mile High Tower, to be located in Jeddah; planned to be twice the height of the world’s current tallest building, it is expected to cost US$10 billion.

IN PERSPECTIVE
  • Al-Walid founded the private investment firm, Kingdom Holding Company, his base for investments in the banking, hotel, and real-estate sectors.

  • After his major investments in Citicorp, he made a number of key acquisitions in other faltering blue-chip international businesses, including Eurodisney, New York’s Plaza Hotel, London’s Canary Wharf, and Apple Computers.

  • In 2000, he moved his investments into high-tech companies, such as Compaq, Kodak, eBay, and Amazon.com.

  • He is now considered to be the strongest political contender among the third-generation Saudi royals who will one day inherit power.

  • He has called for the introduction of elections to Saudi Arabia’s 120-membe advisory council, to help reduce domestic problems in the country.

  • His donations to religious institutions in the Middle East and the building of many new mosques in Saudi Arabia have made him a popular figure in the region.

  • He is vocal advocate on women’s rights, and hired the first female airline pilot in Saudi Arabia.

“Banks are the eyes of an economy.”

Prince Al-Walid bin Talal
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