It would be fair to say 2016 was mixed for Prince Alwaleed, the most well known face in the Middle Eastern business landscape.
During the year, he was involved in a number of notable deals including the exchange of Kingdom Holding’s stake in the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands for AccorHotels stock and the successful $170m sale of the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.
But these were also coupled with disappointments, with profit declines at Kingdom Holding in the second and third quarters and SAR150m less revenue than hoped from the AccorHotels deal due to currency fluctuations related to Brexit.
Outside of his business dealings, Alwaleed’s often outspoken manner continued to attract attention. This was particularly true when after declaring then US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump a “disgrace” on Twitter at the end of 2015. He backtracked on his remarks nearly a year later by wishing the new President congratulations and best wishes “whatever the past differences”.
The billionaire also remained in the public eye for his philanthropic efforts, following the announcement of plans to give $32bn to charity announced in July 2015. In January, Alwaleed Philanthropies received a trophy and certificate from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for its support for Syrian refugees and the previous month the organisation announced the names of 2,600 Saudis given housing and car grants as part of a longer term initiative to help 10,000 citizens. Other notable donations included $3m to the END Fund to fight neglected tropical diseases and $50m to Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund to finance emerging energy breakthroughs.
As the billionaire’s philanthropic efforts continue, he may well become as known for his charitable donations as the shrewd investments in the likes of Citibank, Mövenpick Hotels, Walt Disney, News Corp and Twitter that have built his name since the founding of Kingdom Holding in 1979.
Chairman, Kingdom Holding Company