Al-Waleed bin Talal

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Al Waleed al Saud
Noble family House of Saud
Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud
Native name الوليد بن طلال
Born (1955-03-07) 7 March 1955 (age 58)
Residence Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Nationality  Saudi Arabia
Alma mater Menlo College
Syracuse University
Occupation Owner of Kingdom Holding Company, Investor, Financier
Years active 1979–present
Net worth US$ 20–30 Billion (2013)[1][2]
Religion Islam[3]
Spouse(s) Dalal bint Saud bin Abdulaziz (divorced)
Ameera al-Taweel

Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud (Arabic: الوليد بن طلال بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود‎, born 7 March 1955) is a Saudi Arabian businessman and investor. He the grandson of King Abdulazziz Saudi royal family.

He is the founder, CEO, and 95%-owner[4] of the Kingdom Holding Company. Arabian Business ranked him as the most influential Arab in the world.[5]

In March 2013, Forbes listed Al Waleed as the 26th-richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of US $20 Billion. Prince al Waleed disputes the Forbes valuation, and believes his wealth to be $26 billion.[2] Bloomberg later estimated his wealth as $30 billion.[6] Arabian Business Magazine estimated his wealth at $31.2B in December 2013.[7]

Early life and education

Al-Waleed bin Talal was born in Riyadh on 7 March 1955.[8][9] His parents are Prince Talal and Mona Al Solh, daughter of Riad Al Solh, Lebanon's first Prime Minister.[10][11]

His father, Prince Talal, was Saudi Arabia’s finance minister in the early 1960s,[12] before he went into exile due to his advocation of political reform.[13] Al Waleed's parents separated when he was 7, and he returned to Saudi Arabia with his mother.[13] As a youth Al Waleed would run away from home for a day or two and sleep in the back of unlocked cars. He would later attend military school in Riyadh, where he learnt a strict discipline to which he continues to adhere.[13]

Al-Waleed bin Talal received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Menlo College in California in 1979.[14] He then received a master's degree in social science with honors from Syracuse University in 1985.[15]

Business interests

Prince al Waleed began his business career in 1979 upon graduation from Menlo College. He returned to Saudi Arabia which was in the midst of the 1974–1985 oil boom.[16] Operating from a small pre-fabricated office in Riyadh, he became active in construction contracts and real estate and amassed a sizeable fortune. He was first profiled by Forbes magazine in 1988.

Following the end of the Saudi oil boom, Al-Waleed altered strategies and acquired United Saudi Commercial Bank, an underperforming Saudi Arabian bank. He rapidly turned around the bank and through subsequent mergers with Saudi Cairo Bank and SAMBA turned it into one of the leading Middle Eastern banks.[17]

His activities as an investor came to prominence in the West when he bought a substantial tranche of shares in Citicorp in 1991 when the company was in crisis. With an initial investment of $550 million ($2.98 a share after adjusting for stock splits, acquisitions, and spin-offs, according to Bloomberg calculations) to bail out Citibank caused by underperforming American real estate loans and Latin American businesses, his holdings in Citigroup now comprise about $1 billion.

In 1997, Time Magazine reported that Al Waleed owned about 5 percent of News Corporation.[18] In 2010, Alwaleed's stake in News Corp. was about 7% worth $3Bn. In 2013, News Corp. had a $175 million (19%) investment in Al Waleed's Rotana Group, the Arab world's largest entertainment company. This review of his holdings also referred to the Al Waleed investment AOL as if it was perhaps in the past.[19]

His stake in Citibank once accounted for approximately half of his wealth, prior to the financial crisis of 2007–2010. At the end of 1990, he bought 4.9 percent of Citicorp’s existing common shares for $207 million ($12.46 per share)—the most that he could without being legally obliged to declare his interest. In February 1991, he spent $590m buying new preferred shares, convertible into common shares at $16 each. This amounted to a further 10% of Citicorp and took his stake to 14.9%.[20]

In 1999, The Economist expressed doubts about the source of income of Prince Al Waleed and whether he is a front man for other Saudi investors. "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", wrote the magazine.[20]

Later, he also made large investments in AOL, Apple Inc., MCI Inc., Motorola, Fox News, and other technology and media companies.[21] Al Waleed's stake in Apple was sold in 2005.[13]

Al Waleed also invested in Eastman Kodak and the airline TWA, these investments have both performed poorly.[2]

His real estate holdings have included large stakes in the Four Seasons hotel chain and the Plaza Hotel in New York. He sold half of his shares in the latter in August 2004. He has made investments in London's Savoy Hotel and Monaco's Monte Carlo Grand Hotel. He currently holds a 10% stake in Euro Disney SCA, the company that owns, manages, and maintains Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee.[22]

In January 2005, Al Waleed purchased the Savoy Hotel in London for an estimated GBP £250 million, to be managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts; his sister, Sultana Nurul owns an estimated 16% stake. In January 2006, in partnership with the U.S. real estate firm Colony Capital, Kingdom Holding acquired Toronto, CA-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts for an estimated $3.9 billion.

In 2009, it was reported that Al Waleed owned 35% of Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), reportedly the largest media company in the Middle East.[23]

In August 2011, Al Waleed announced that his company had contracted Binladen Group to build the next tallest building in the World, the Kingdom Tower at a height of at least 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) for SR 4.6 billion.[24] The original plan announced in 2008 called it برج الميل (Arabic for "the Tower of One Mile") at 1,609 metres (5,279 ft) and an estimated cost of US$10 billion.[citation needed]

In December 2011, Al Waleed invested $300 Million in Twitter through the purchase of secondary shares from insiders.[25] The purchase gave Kingdom Holding a "more than 3% share" of the company, which was valued at $8Bn in late summer 2011.[4]

Estimate of net worth and Forbes billionaires list

Kerry A. Dolan, the editor of Forbes billionaires list wrote a controversial article Prince Alwaleed and the Curious Case of Kingdom Holding Stock upon the 2013 publication of the list.[13] Dolan claimed Alwaleed placed significant importance on the Forbes list and highlighted a supposed correlation between changes in the share price of Kingdom Holdings and the time leading up to the publication of the list.[13] This correlation was later disputed by Jeffrey Towson, a former employee of Alwaleed, in a blog post.[26] Towson alleged that Forbes had skewed the axis of the published share price chart to highlight the asserted correlation.[26] In the article, Dolan states Al Waleed would blind copy Dolan on text messages he sent to prominent people with the goal of impressing her. She also spent a week with him in Riyadh in 2008, at his behest, touring his palaces. In 2006 Forbes estimated his net worth as $7 billion less than Al Waleed claimed. He telephoned Dolan at her home, with Dolan claiming that he sounded "nearly in tears".[13] Al Waleed also had Kingdom Holding's chief financial officer fly to New York before a previous list had been published to ensure that Forbes used his stated numbers.[13]

The article explains the methodology behind Forbes 2013 estimate of his wealth, examines Kingdom Holdings share performance and features Dolan's communications with Shadi Sanbar, the CFO of Kingdom Holdings. Sanbar insisted that Al Waleed’s name be removed from the billionaires list if Forbes didn’t increase its valuation of his wealth.[13] Dolan wrote that "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."[13] Sanbar wrote in a press release that "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."[13]

Prince Alwaleed responded to the Forbes article in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in March 2013 to say he will pursue legal action against the magazine.[27] "They are accusing me of market manipulation," Alwaleed said. "This is all wrong and a false statement. We will fight it all the way against Forbes."[27] He called the Forbes' list "flawed and inaccurate, displays bias against Middle East investors and financial institutions."[27]

Jeffrey Towson, Alwaleed's former Head of Direct Investments for MENA and Asia Pacific, published a white paper in response to the Forbes article titled The 8 Big Mistakes in Forbes' Attack on Prince Alwaleed[26] Towson wrote that "Forbes' explanation of his (Alwaleed) behavior, his business and his investment strategy is one of the worst I have ever seen. It is full of mistakes and mischaracterizations. The tone is bad. But the content is worse."[26]

The Guardian reported that Alwaleed had launched a defamation claim in London against the publisher of Forbes, its editor, Randall Lane, and two journalists from the magazine on 6 June 2013.[28] Forbes announced their surprise at the libel action, and the fact it was launched in London.[28] Forbes said that "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."[28] Forbes had not been served with a lawsuit by June.[29]

A statement issued by Alwaleed's 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". Prince Alwaleed claimed that Forbes used an "irrational and deeply flawed valuation methodology, which is ultimately subjective and discriminatory".[30]

Charitable activities

Much of the charitable activities of Al Waleed are in the field of educational initiatives to bridge gaps between Western and Islamic communities. Over the years, he has funded a number of centers of American studies in universities in the Middle East and centers of Islamic studies in Western universities, which has given rise to concerns about their academic autonomy from Campus Watch and Jewish American interest groups.[31]

Controversial donation after the 11 September attacks

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, Al Waleed gave a cheque of $10 million to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He publicized a written statement upon his donation, stating "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 his statement, Giuliani returned the check.[32][33]

Al Waleed spoke to a Saudi weekly magazine, regarding the rejection of his check by the mayor: "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."[34]


In 2002, Al Waleed donated £18.5 million to the families of Palestinians during a TV telethon following Israeli operations in the West Bank city of Jenin. The telethon was ordered by Saudi King Fahd to help relatives of Palestinian martyrs. The Saudi government maintained the term "martyrs" referred to "Palestinians [who are] victimized by Israeli terror and violence."[35]

Phillips Academy

In 2002, Al Waleed donated $500,000 to help fund the George Herbert Walker Bush Scholarship at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.[19]

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

In 2004, Al Waleed contributed $17 million to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[35]

Western Universities

On 8 May 2008, he gave £16m to Edinburgh University to fund the "centre for the study of Islam in the contemporary world."[36]


Kingdom 5KR

Al-Waleed owns the 54th largest private yacht in the world, the 85.9-meter (282 ft) yacht Kingdom 5KR,, originally built as the "Nabila" for Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi in 1979. The yacht posed as the Flying Saucer, the yacht of James Bond villain Largo in the film Never Say Never Again. It was later sold to Donald Trump, who renamed her Trump Princess. Al-Waleed bought back the yacht after Trump's second bankruptcy.[37]

He has ordered a new yacht currently known as the New Kingdom 5KR which will be about 173 meters (567 ft) long and carries an estimated cost of over $500 million. The yacht is rendered by Lindsey Design and the design were delivered in late 2010.[38] However, there has been no news regarding this project more recently and it is not known whether construction has even started. The current Kingdom 5KR falls further down the world rankings, and currently is at 54.

Al Waleed owns several aircraft, all converted for private use: a Boeing 747, 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.[2]

Among his many assets are: a 95 percent stake in Kingdom Holding Company; 91 percent ownership of Rotana Video & Audio Visual Company; 90 percent ownership of LBC SAT; 7 percent ownership of News Corporation; about 6 percent ownership of Citigroup; and 17 percent ownership of Al Nahar and 25 percent ownership of Al Diyar, two daily newspapers published in Lebanon.

Al-Waleed topped the first Saudi Rich List issued in 2009, with a fortune of $16.3bn.[39]


Name City Area (sq m) Coordinates Description
Kingdom Resort Hay al Huda 500,000 24°39′09″N 46°36′11″E / 24.652463°N 46.603076°E / 24.652463; 46.603076 It contains three lakes integrated with splendid gardens.
Kingdom Palace Hay al Huda 250,000 24°38′37″N 46°40′45″E / 24.643587°N 46.679208°E / 24.643587; 46.679208 Al-Waleed's primary home is a large palace in Central Riyadh. According to Time Magazine, "Al-Waleed and his two wives live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a $300 million sand-colored palace whose 317 rooms are adorned with 1,500 tons of Italian marble, silk oriental carpets, gold-plated faucets and 250 TV sets. 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".[40]
Kingdom Oasis Janadriyah 4,000,000 25°02′49″N 46°58′19″E / 25.047°N 46.972035°E / 25.047; 46.972035 Still under construction this 4 million square metre luxury resort will include a 70,000 square metre lake and a private zoo.[41][42]

Personal life

The first wife of Al Waleed was Talal bint Saud, a daughter of King Saud. They have two children: Reem and Khalid.[43] They later divorced.[44]

Prince Talal is currently married to Princess Ameera.[45]


Al Waleed also received the Star of Palestine, the highest honour conferred by Palestine, in 2009.[48] In 2010, Al Waleed was given the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Innovation.[49] He received the Bahrain Medal of the First Order, the country’s highest honorary medal in late May 2012.[50] He received a Nepalese Honorary Medal of the Third Order "Mahaujjval Rastradip Manpadvi", which is the highest medal for any foreigner, in August 2012.[51] He was also awarded the Guinea Bissau's Colina De Boe Medal in August 2012.[52] In June 2013, he was awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone (GCRSL), highest national honour of the country.[53]


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  3. ^ Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. (18 January 2013). Retrieved on 17 January 2014.
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Further reading

External links