US publication Forbes has released its annual rich list revealing a new frontrunner for the world’s wealthiest person and several major shifts in the rankings in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Among the most noticeable changes in the 2018 list as a whole is the removal of all 10 Saudis that appeared previously following a November crackdown on corruption led by the kingdom’s crown prince that snared businessmen, royals and government officials.
Many of the big names on the Forbes list in 2017, including the region’s former richest person Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, have since been released from a luxury prison at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel but the publication said there was uncertainty as to what settlements they had made with the government to secure their freedom.
The kingdom’s public prosecutor said in January that it had received nearly $107bn in settlements from the 381 people it subpoenaed as part of the corruption investigation including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets.
“Alwaleed and many others have been released, but checking out of the Ritz-Carlton cost billions,” Forbes said in an article explaining why no Saudis were included in the 2018 ranking.
“There are a thousand and one stories about what precisely happened, making it impossible to know definitively who gave how much to whom when.
“Given these shifting sands of truth, we’ve chosen to leave all ten Saudis off our billionaires list this year; none would comment. With greater clarity regarding their wealth, some might eventually return to the ranking.”
The publication released a list of all those removed, if Alwaleed had been included he would have ranked around 60th in the 2018 list. Its Middle East edition said Saudi billionaires were worth $42.1bn last year and would have been worth more this year “considering the rise in oil prices and capital markets globally”.
Alwaleed’s detention also saw him lose his spot as the world’s most powerful Arab in our 2018 ranking.
Saudi billionaires removed from the rich list
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Chairs publicly traded Kingdom Holding, which has investments in Lyft, Twitter, Citigroup and the Four Seasons.
Mohammed Al Amoudi
Assets include a Swedish refinery, Saudi gas stations and an Ethiopian conglomerate (gold mining, farming, construction).
Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer
His publicly traded Almarai dairy company is among the largest in the Middle East.
Mohammed Al Issa
His Assila Investments has stakes in a bank, a food processor and hotels.
Founded Dallah Albaraka conglomerate (real estate, food, health care).
Abdullah Al Rajhi
With brothers, built Al Rajhi Bank, one of world’s largest Islamic banks.
Abdul Majeed Alhokair
The three brothers’ real estate empire includes 19 shopping malls.
Real estate investor.
The 2018 rich list also saw a new world’s richest person named. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took the top spot and became the first to reach a fortune of more than $100bn with an estimated net worth of $112bn.
He was followed by Microsoft founder Bill gates in second with $90bn and investor Warren Buffett in third with $84bn.
The removal of the Saudi entries made the UAE’s Abdulla bin Ahmad Al Ghurair, founder of Mashreq bank, the richest person in the Gulf in 296th with a fortune of $5.9bn.
He was followed by UAE malls and retail company founder Majid Al Futtaim in 456th with a fortune of $4.6bn and Dubai developer Damac Properties’ founder Hussain Sajwani in 527th with a fortune of $4.1bn.