The Billionaire Prince

Saudi Arabia's Al-Waleed bin Talal is back in the spotlight for allegedly being one of the financiers behind the planned Islamic center in downtown Manhattan. Here are 10 things that you should know about the colorful royal.

BY SIMON HENDERSON | AUGUST 27, 2010

How conservative is he? Not very. While he largely abstains from Saudi Arabia's debates over how far to push its wahhabi religious doctrine, he has called for incremental liberalization of the kingdom's laws surrounding women -- notably coming out in favor of women's right to drive cars.

In private, however, he is believed to go even further: A friend of mine who visited Saudi Arabia last year found himself taken to a soiree at Al-Waleed's palace outside Riyadh. At lunch in Washington a few weeks later, my friend was still goggle-eyed by the luxury, the beautiful Lebanese executive assistants, the food, the refreshments...

How Saudi is he? Not enough to ever be king. His father, Prince Talal, was born to an Armenian wife of King Abdulaziz, who reigned from 1936 to 1953, which is decidedly the wrong pedigree. To ascend to the throne, princes should possess an entirely Arab family tree. Al-Waleed's own mother was Lebanese, which compounds the problem. He has hundreds of other cousins with better credentials for the throne.

How big an ego does he have? Gigantic. Al-Waleed likes to have his picture taken with heads of state or prime ministers. One high point for the prince was hosting U.S. President George W. Bush, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Jordanian King Abdullah, Bahraini King Hamad, and then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at his Four Seasons hotel in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2003.

A group photo from the event appeared on the back cover of his biography -- AlWaleed: Businessman, Billionaire, Prince - which was penned by Al Jazeera English presenter Riz Khan. However, even this impressive collection of world leaders was not enough for Al-Waleed: Because the prince wanted to be front and center, the image of Jordan's King Abdullah II was shifted to the background to make room for the Saudi tycoon.

Last year, Al-Waleed's count of leaders he had met was 209, over 36 years. This month, he added Cypriot President Christofias to the tally.

How are his political instincts? Questionable. In the United States, his reputation never recovered from the uproar immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks, when he accompanied a $10 million donation to New York City with a note imploring the U.S. government to "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance to the Palestinian cause." New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani returned the money.

Later contributions to establish Islamic centers at U.S. universities may have been gratefully accepted, but remain a source of academic contention. The Saudi government also once publicly slapped him down for suggesting that he had a role in Lebanon's politics due to his Lebanese heritage, a statement that muddled Saudi diplomacy. The proposed Islamic center in Manhattan is just the sort of project that he likes to support -- and he just might judge it to be payback time for the slight of having his check returned by Giuliani.

How will he respond to criticism on Fox News? Badly -- but, for the moment, privately. Few people take criticism worse than Saudi royals -- that's why they have bought so many major Arabic newspaper and television companies. But senior members of the House of Saud are probably advising him to remain quiet on this one.

They might even see all the fuss as a blessing in disguise. There are hints that some members of the royal family secretly resent Al-Waleed's high international profile -- the world's confusion over whether he is more important than other Saudi princes, his private Boeing 747, the A-380 double-decker being fitted out for delivery next year, and the other trappings of wealth and influence he has accrued over many colorful decades. Envy is not just a vice of the poor.

AFP/Getty Images

 

Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the author of a study on the Saudi royal family, "After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia."

LEBANESE

1:16 AM ET

August 28, 2010

AL Waleed

A filthy asshole with lots of money he thinks he can buy people, Prince Al Waleed is a true SCUM BAG.

 

MUSTNOTSLEEP14

1:21 AM ET

August 28, 2010

Average age of Fox viewers =

Average age of Fox viewers = 69. We can just wait for them to die out and then Beck will lose his audience.

 

HUCKLEBERRY_FINN

6:58 AM ET

August 28, 2010

What's wrong with all these

What's wrong with all these Fox audience I wonder. It would seemingly buy any journalist hoax these days.Probably even the one as sick as Georgian TV-plot of alleged Russian invasion to Georgia (http://tinyurl.com/3x4xlj7)

 

COUNTCHOCULA1011

2:34 PM ET

August 28, 2010

A little confused...

...why exactly are people making such a big deal over this guy? From what the article says, he seems like your generic billionaire who simply wants to earn more and more money. There doesn't seem to be anything nefarious about him. He criticized US foreign policy? Big deal--are Muslims not allowed to criticize US foreign policy nowadays without being labelled terrorist supporters? Nothing he said was even remotely controversial. And Juliani was a moron for not accepting the money. It's not like there were any caveats attached to it.

 

AVNER STEIN

10:06 PM ET

August 28, 2010

Saudis

Fund 60% of American universities. Saudi Arabia is #1 supporter of terrorism (Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, etc..) and at the same time has donated billions to unversities.

If this mosque was being built by American muslims, all right, but if Saudis are behind it the mosque must be destroyed. Saudis did 9/11.

 

GREGORYF

3:39 AM ET

August 29, 2010

mate, the aircraft is an

mate, the aircraft is an A380.

 

DELGLASS

7:54 AM ET

August 29, 2010

Thank you

Thank you.

 

BUDAHH

2:09 PM ET

August 29, 2010

Little Saudi sh...t princess

Who the heck is this guy, what is so special about him?
He was born a billionaire and stayed one, I can't wait untill they find a replacement for oil and saudi Arabia will go back to the middle ages,

These fanatic yes fanatic people in Saudi Arabia are one of the main reason for terror in the whole world today and we keep getting them richer and richer the U.S Must tap into its own oil and let the saudis sweat.
The richest oil state that provides it's citizens with fanatic Islamic education instead of a better future. The saudis can build whatever they want they are rich enough, yet they choose to build hate and oppression and spread their poison around the world .
The U.S is not the reason for terror against it , people like the Saudis And the Iranians are. .
Some poeple are like absued women that their husband tells them it is their fault and they blame themselves .
America is not at fault here these fanatic loonies are.

 

A BALANCED VIEW

8:47 PM ET

August 29, 2010

My god, I love it. Fox, the

My god, I love it. Fox, the terror network. Puts a whole new twist on Glenn Becks ridiculous coopting of Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech anniversary.

Originally, I though he was reaching out to intellectually challenged white people who are so confused about their current economic woes that they would blame it on black people taking their jobs and the black president.

Now it's clear that when Beck says that we should embrace religion as a nation again, that he means Sharia Law. per his owners orders. Freaking Hilarious.

 

JODY8526937

11:38 AM ET

August 31, 2010

Well the Prince seems to like

Well the Prince seems to like the limelight which in my mind automatically means he is one without real power? Of course he is a shill for others to invest but not the real wealth.

20 Billion? Ha. In the land of oily princes this can be considered easy money. Many of the families in UAE, SA, etc. are worth dozens of billions.

Forbes list of rich people? Ha. Another joke. The really rich people are loathe to be on that list. Only rebels, malcontents, ego maniacs and public company directors are on that list. The Prince garners sthe spotlight while the real power is ingrained in the background. Some of the families have to be approaching the Trillion dollar mark if that has not already been surpassed.

Owning a chunk of Fox? Why not. The viewers values are practically the same as the Prince, with the exception of whom they pray to. I should be troubled by the Ground Zero Mosque proposal and the fact that he is Saudi and the 9-11 tragedy appears to be the work of Saudi reactionaries. But in the world of bizarre rich finance what does it really matter? Americans created this oily financier and we shall have to pay for him and his kind in many ways we never expected.

 

DANIELLA

8:12 AM ET

September 14, 2010

Al-Waleed are the biggest

Al-Waleed are the biggest foreign investor in the US.
he could have a great negative impact on the US economy? with one order , so I am not surprised if I see Obama exchanging talks with him to make sure he keeps his livescore money