Al-Waleed bin Talal

Al-Waleed bin Talal

HRH Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal
Native name الوليد بن طلال
Born (1955-03-07) 7 March 1955
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Residence Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Nationality  Saudi Arabia
Alma mater Menlo College
Syracuse University
Occupation Chairman & CEO of Kingdom Holding Company
Years active 1979–present
Net worth US$28 billion (June 2015)[2]
Religion Islam[3]
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)[4] is a Saudi business magnate and investor. He is a member of the Saudi royal family. Waleed was listed as one of Time magazine's Time 100, an annual list of the hundred most influential people in the world in 2008.[5] Waleed is a nephew of the late Saudi King Abdullah, a grandson of Ibn Saud, the first Saudi king, and a grandson of Riad Al Solh, Lebanon's first Prime Minister.

Al-Waleed is the founder, the Plaza Hotel.[9][10] His business acumen and shrewd entrepreneurial prowess have earned him comparisons to American investor and business magnate Warren Buffett. Due to his prominence as a businessman, he was acknowledged by Time, who labeled the Prince as the "Arabian Warren Buffett".[11] In June 2015 Forbes listed Al-Waleed as the 34th-richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$28 billion.[2]

In 2015 Al-Waleed announced that he would donate his entire fortune to charity at an unspecified date, in order to foster cultural understanding and empower women among other motivations.[12]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Business career 2
    • Business ventures and investments 2.1
  • Estimate of net worth and Forbes billionaires list 3
  • Political views 4
  • Philanthropy 5
    • Controversial donation after the 11 September attacks 5.1
    • Palestinians 5.2
    • Phillips Academy 5.3
    • 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake 5.4
    • Western Universities 5.5
    • First Saudi female pilot 5.6
    • Najib Razak 5.7
  • Assets 6
    • Palaces 6.1
  • Personal life 7
    • Ancestry 7.1
    • Awards 7.2
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life and education

Al-Waleed was born in Jeddah on 7 March 1955.[13][14] His parents are Prince Talal and Mona Al Solh, daughter of Riad Al Solh, Lebanon's first Prime Minister.[15][16]

His father, Prince Talal, was Saudi Arabia’s finance minister in the early 1960s,[17] before he went into exile due to his advocation of political reform.[18] Al-Waleed's parents separated when he was seven, and he went to live with his mother in Lebanon.[18] 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.[18]

Al-Waleed received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Menlo College in California in 1979.[19] He then received a master's degree in social science with honors from Syracuse University in 1985.[20]

Business career

Business ventures and investments

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 1974–85 oil boom.[21] 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 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 the bank around and through subsequent mergers with Saudi Cairo Bank and SAMBA turned it into one of the leading Middle Eastern banks.[22]

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 reported that Al-Waleed owned about five percent of News Corporation.[23] In 2010, Alwaleed's stake in News Corp. was about 7 percent, amounting to $3 billion. In 2013, News Corp. had a $175 million (19 percent) 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.[24]

His stake in Citibank once accounted for approximately half of his wealth, prior to the financial crisis of 2007–08. 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 $590 million buying new preferred shares, convertible into common shares at $16 each. This amounted to a further 10 percent of Citicorp and took his stake to 14.9 percent.[25]

In 1999, The Economist expressed doubts about the source of Al-Waleed's income and wondered whether he was a front man for other Saudi investors:[25]

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.

Later, he also made large investments in AOL, Apple Inc., MCI Inc., Motorola, Fox Broadcasting, and other technology and media companies.[26] Al Waleed's stake in Apple was sold in 2005.[18]

Al-Waleed also invested in Eastman Kodak and the airline TWA, these investments have both performed poorly.[27]

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 percent stake in Euro Disney SCA, the company that owns, manages, and maintains Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée.[28]

Savoy Hotel in London is owned by Waleed.

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 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.

In 2009, it was reported that Al-Waleed owned 35 percent of Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), reportedly the largest media company in the Middle East.[29]

In August 2011, Al-Waleed announced that his company had contracted Bin Laden 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.[30] 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.

In December 2011, Al-Waleed invested $300 million in Twitter through the purchase of secondary shares from insiders.[31] The purchase gave Kingdom Holding a "more than 3% share" of the company, which was valued at $8 billion in late summer 2011.[6]

Estimate of net worth and Forbes billionaires list

In 2013 Kerry A. Dolan, the editor of Forbes annual billionaires list, wrote an article entitled "Prince Alwaleed and the Curious Case of Kingdom Holding Stock", which accompanied the list's publication that year.[18] Dolan claimed Al-Waleed placed significant importance on the Forbes list and highlighted a supposed correlation between changes in the share price of Kingdom Holdings and the period time leading up to te lists publication.[18] This correlation was later disputed by Jeffrey Towson, a former employee of Al-Waleed, in a blog post.[32] Towson alleged that Forbes had skewed the axis of the published share price chart to highlight the asserted correlation.[32] 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".[18] 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.[18]

The article explains the methodology behind Forbes' 2013 estimate of his wealth at $20 billion, 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 did not increase its valuation of his wealth.[18] Dolan wrote that "[a]s 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 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."[18]

Al-Waleed responded to the Forbes article in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in March 2013 to say he would pursue legal action against the magazine.[33] "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."[33] He called the Forbes' list "flawed and inaccurate" and alleged that Forbes "displays bias against Middle East investors and financial institutions."[33]

Jeffrey Towson, Al-Waleed'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".[32] Towson wrote that "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.".[32]

The Guardian reported that on 6 June 2013, Al-Waleed had launched a defamation claim in London against the publisher of Forbes, its editor, Randall Lane, and two journalists from the magazine.[34] Forbes announced its surprise at the libel action, and the fact it was launched in London.[34] 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."[34] Forbes had not been served with a lawsuit by June 20.[35]

A statement later issued by Al-Waleed'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". Al-Waleed claimed that Forbes used an "irrational and deeply flawed valuation methodology, which is ultimately subjective and discriminatory".[36]

On June 16, 2015 Forbes and HRH Prince Alwaleed 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 sited as key in the defendants' willingness to consider the stock price of Alwaleed's publicly traded investment firm, Kingdom Holding Company in valuing the KHC component of his wealth.[37]

Political views

Prince Talal Bin Waleed has urged all Arab nations to give up their hostility toward the Jewish nation and look for peaceful coexistence.

"All my Muslim brothers and sisters must understand that it became a moral imperative for all inhabitants of war-torn Middle-East, namely Arabs, to desist their absurd hostility toward Jewish people."[38]


Beyond business, Al-Waleed is an active philanthropist. Much of Al-Waleed's charitable activities 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 caused Campus Watch and Jewish American interest groups to question the centers' academic autonomy.[39]

On July 1, 2015, Prince Alwaleed held a press conference in which he announced his intention to donate $32 billion to philanthropic causes. He said that the funds will be used for humanitarian projects such as the empowerment of women and youth, as well as disaster relief, disease eradication and building bridges of understanding across cultures.[40]

Controversial donation after the 11 September attacks

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, Al-Waleed gave a cheque for $10 million to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani over-riding opposition in the Kingdom. 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 cheque.[41][42]

Al-Waleed spoke to a Saudi weekly magazine regarding the rejection of his cheque 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."[43]


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 Palestinians.

Phillips Academy

In 2002, Al-Waleed donated $500,000 to help fund the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.[24]

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

In 2004, Al-Waleed contributed $17 million to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[44]

Western Universities

On 8 May 2008, Al-Waleed gave £16 million to Edinburgh University to fund the "centre for the study of Islam in the contemporary world."[45] An active center at the American University of Beirut is also established by a fund from Prince Al-Waleed, namely: The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR).[46] The Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medical College is named for Al-Waleed.[47] The Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge also bears the name of Al-Waleed,[48] as does the Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.[49]

First Saudi female pilot

Al-Waleed is considered a proponent for female emancipation in the Saudi world. He has financed the training of Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi to become the first Saudi woman commercial airline pilot and has stated on her graduation that he is "in full support of Saudi ladies working in all fields".[50] Al-Hindi became certified to fly within Saudi Arabia in 2014.[51]

Najib Razak

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister of Malaysia Ahmad Maslan told a seminar and dialogue session with women entrepreneurs in Sabah on 5 September 2015 that Prince Al-Waleed Talal, gave USD0.7 billion which was deposited in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal accounts at AmBank Islamic private banking services before the last Malaysian General Election in 2013. Ahmad Maslan also mentioned it comes without any conditions conflicting earlier news that the perpetrated funds was a reward for supporting efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[52]


Kingdom 5KR

Al-Waleed owns the 58th 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. In 1983, whilst in Khashoggi's ownership, 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 American business magnate and investor Donald Trump, who renamed her Trump Princess. Al-Waleed bought back the yacht after Trump's second bankruptcy.[53]

Al-Waleed 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.[54] However, there has been no news regarding this project more recently and it is not known whether construction has even started.

Al-Waleed owns several aircraft, all converted for private use: a Boeing 747,[55] 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.[27]

Among his many assets are a 95 percent stake in Kingdom Holding Company; a 91 percent ownership of Rotana Video & Audio Visual Company; a 90 percent ownership of LBC SAT; 7 percent ownership of News Corporation; about a 6 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" issued in 2009, with a fortune of $16.3 billion.[56]


Name City Area (sq m) Coordinates Description
Kingdom Resort Hay al Huda 500,000 It contains three lakes integrated with splendid gardens.
Kingdom Palace Hay al Huda 250,000 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".[57]
Kingdom Oasis Janadriyah 4,000,000 Still under construction, this luxury resort will include a 70,000 square-metre lake and a private zoo.[58][59]

Personal life

The first wife of Al-Waleed was Dalal bint Saud, a daughter of King Saud. They have two children: Reem and Khalid.[60] They later divorced.[61] His third wife was a young woman Ameera al-Taweel, but after 10 years of marriage they divorced. In an interview recently, he had 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."[62]



In 2 December 2009 Al-Waleed received The Order of Izzudin bestowed upon HRH by the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed,[65] He also received the Star of Palestine, the highest honour conferred by the State of Palestine, in 2009.[66] In 2010, Al Waleed was given the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Innovation.[67] He received the Bahrain Medal of the First Order, the country’s highest honorary medal in late May 2012.[68] He received a Nepalese Honorary Medal of the Third Order "Mahaujjval Rastradip Manpadvi", which is the highest medal for any foreigner, in August 2012.[69] He was also awarded the Guinea-Bissau's Colina De Boe Medal in August 2012.[70] 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.[71] On 13 December 2014 he was appointed Honorary Companion of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta.[72]


  1. ^ Marwan Kraidy, Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 83
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  6. ^ a b Knickmeyer, Ellen, "Saudi prince invests $300M for 3% stake in Twitter", Zawya Dow Jones via affiliate Market Watch, 19 December 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011
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  10. ^ The Stockholder in the Sand
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  28. ^ Disneyland Resort Paris, Annual review 2007, p. 53
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  38. ^ article (21 August 2015)
  39. ^ CJP: Jewish Groups Keep Watchful Eye as Schools Receive Saudi Donations. retrieved 3 October 2012
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  48. ^ Centre of Islamic Studies, Cambridge
  49. ^ The Prince Al-waleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University
  50. ^ First Saudi Female Pilot Lands Job With Kingdom Holding, 24 November 2004. Includes photo.
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  53. ^ Prince Al-Waleed's yacht. (31 May 2006). Retrieved on 17 January 2014.
  54. ^ – Project New Kingdom 5KR. Retrieved on 17 January 2014.
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Further reading

External links

  • Al-Waleed bin Talal on Twitter
  • Kingdom Holding Company