1. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud Eight years of the Arabian Business Power List, and eight years in the top slot for Prince Alwaleed. Profits at his Kingdom Holding Company for Q1 this year surged 11.3% to $26.8m, boosted by the sales of its stake in Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel and its share of the Oasis Kingdom project in Riyadh. The group is one of world’s largest and most diversified private investment companies with holdings in a large number of Saudi Arabian, Middle Eastern and international companies. Today, Kingdom Holding Company, of which he owns 95 percent, covers 39 investments in seven sectors. It is the largest foreign investor in the US, with stakes in the likes of News Corporation, Time Warner, Apple and Citi. Regionally, major players from Samba Financial Group to Savola all have the KHC stamp on their shareholdings. But despite so much success, there is no sign of the prince slowing down, with the last 12 months witnessing phenomenal growth. He announced plans to construct the world’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower, in Jeddah. In the next year, he will also roll out his own 24-hour news channle, Alarab, based in Bahrain, which will directly compete with the likes of Al Jazeera and Sky News Arabia. And he continues to be one of the globe’s most prolific philanthropists, having donated more than $3bn to good causes.
3. Reem Asaad According to her blog, Reem Asaad’s key objective is “to promote and raise financial awareness in Saudi Arabia and promote social and economic wellbeing to its people.” Her remarkable achievements have sent her into third place in our 2012 list, and the highest new entry. Assad’s “Lingerie Campaign” gained international recognition, stirring many underlying issues about the lack of female employment in Saudi Arabia. By last July, he campaign paid off when the Labour Ministry banned men from working in lingerie shops after a directive from King Abdullah – in an instant, creating 44,000 jobs for women. The second stage of the law being implemented could see another 30,000 jobs created for Saudi women - a vital fillip for the kingdom’s economy.
6. Mohamed Al Jaber The Saudi-born tycoon has spent 33 years building from scratch a conglomerate encompassing construction and development, hotels and resorts, oil and gas and agro-industries. It has made him the world’s second-richest Arab businessman, and he has also become a high-profile philanthropist, donating millions to promote good governance and anti-corruption, higher education, women’s rights, public-private partnerships and interfaith dialogue. In 1982, he established his first major endeavour in Saudi Arabia where he founded Jadawel International Construction & Development. Within twelve years Jadawel ranked 17th largest privately owned company in the country. JJW Hotels & Resorts was established in 1989 and is now the owner-operator of more than 60 hotel and leisure resorts in Europe and the Middle East. The smartest streets in London, Paris and Vienna each had one of Al Jaber’s trademark hotels. The final quarter of the year proved tough for Al Jaber, following a court battle with Standard Bank. At one stage a portion of the company’s assets were frozen. However, after coming to a settlement with the bank on December 7, the assets were unfrozen. With a substantial recent cash injection into the MBI Group, Al Jaber’s total wealth has now risen to $12.75bn.
8. Khalid Al Falih As boss of the world’s biggest unlisted company and the world’s largest oil company, Al Falih can lay claim to being possibly the most influential energy executive on the planet. With a workforce of around 55,000, crude oil reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil and revenues of $210 billion in 2010, the superlatives just keep on coming for Saudi Aramco. It is also widely believed to be the most profitable company in the world. Al Falih took charge of this giant firm in January 2009 from Abdullah Juma’ah, at a time of great significance in the industry due to the fluctuating price of oil. He joined Aramco in 1978, and was sponsored by the firm to take a degree in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University in 1982.
19. Hayat Sindi When Hayat Sindi landed in London as a teenager in 1991, she had no university place, no money, and didn’t speak English, Hard work and determination got her a place at Cambridge. In 2001, she won a PhD in biotechnology and has been credited with the invention of MARS,, which combines the effects of light and sound for use in biotechnology. She co-founded Diagnostics for All, an organisation developing a disease-diagnosing paper that changes colours when dabbed with the bodily fluids of someone who is ill. Sindi is also a fellow at PopTech, which offers fellowships to scientists promoting innovation. In 2011, she launched the Institute for Imagination & Ingenuity, which helps local scientists create business plans and find investors for their ideas.
35. Lubna Olayan As the CEO of the Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company, Lubna Olayan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prolific businesswomen. The group, which was founded by her father in 1947, is one of the kingdom’s most successful conglomerates with operations spanning distribution, manufacturing, services and investments, across the Middle East. The firm is also one of the largest investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets. One of Olayan’s most defining moments was speaking at the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2004, when shebecame the first woman to speak at a mixed conference in Saudi Arabia. During her speech, Olayan called for a country in which “any Saudi citizen, irrespective of gender who is serious about finding employment, can find a job in the field for which he or she is best qualified, leading to a thriving middle class and in which all Saudi citizens, residents or visitors to the country feel safe and can live in an atmosphere where mutual respect and tolerance exist among all”.
47. Mohammed Al Mady Al Mady joined SABIC in 1976 with a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Wyoming, USA, and held various key positions within the company before his rise to the top. SABIC is comfortably the largest listed company in the Middle East, and the world’s biggest chemical maker. And, as its CEO since 1998, there is no doubt Al Mady still boasts considerable influence on the industrial markets. Under Al Mady’s stewardship, SABIC has grown from a company that employed six people in 1976 to one that employs 31,000 with a market capitalisation in excess of $70bn. Addressing a meeting of the US-Saudi Business Council in Seattle on 16 May, Al-Mady, who is the co-chairman of the Council, called for greater ties between the countries, saying: “I cannot overemphasize the importance of our continuing relationship and the bond which has developed over these many years. In this context, and in my role within the US-Saudi Business Council, I see myself as a goodwill ambassador to American business enterprise.”
48. Bakr Bin Ladin What a year for the family which is by far Saudi Arabia’s most successful construction empire. In 2011 it inked deals to construct Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Tower and the expansion of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. Between them, the contracts are worth over $20bn. However, those key contracts aside, the Bin Ladin empire has also been hit by the uncertain price of land in the kingdom. The family fortune is based on a construction business that paid immense dividends when decades ago it was awarded contracts for major renovations at Mecca and other religious buildings in Saudi Arabia and abroad. Founded by Mohammed Bin Ladin, the family also built several palaces in Riyadh and Jeddah for the royal family. The firm employs tens of thousands of people across the region.
63. Lama Sulaiman Lama Sulaiman was elected deputy chairwoman of the Jeddah Chamber for Commerce & Industry in December 2009, becoming the first female to hold such a post in Saudi history. Her appointment was even more remarkable given that just a week before standing for election, the businesswoman was told she had beaten breast cancer. The mother of four is well aware of the delicacies of being a Saudi woman in her position, telling Bloomberg: “You have to proceed carefully. You have to respect others,” adding that few clerics have objected to her working with men due to her husband’s authorisation.
71. Muna AbuSulayman
Until recently, Muna AbuSulayman was secretary general for the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, charged with spending upto $100m a year on good causes. She is widely seen as an international expert in development and philanthropy. Due to a diverse cross-functional work experience over the past 16 years, AbuSulayman has become internationally recognised as an expert in the fields of management, sustainable development, and communications, media, the Middle East, women and gender, as well as on Islam. She is best known as the first Saudi woman to break through media and cultural traditions by becoming the first Saudi female to appear on non-government global TV and ushering in changes in the way women are viewed by conservatives.
80. Ayman Hariri Ayman Hariri is the first of the five children of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, to feature in this list. Ayman has made his mark on the telecommunications sector, having worked as an engineer at major satellite consortium Intelsat, and also on the family-owned South African wireless carrier, 3C, where he remains a board member. But it’s in the field of property and real estate where he is now making waves. Ayman is now the deputy general manager and a board member of Saudi Oger — and as befits a naturally gifted engineer, he has a hands-on role in all projects. Ayman has so far steered clear of the political arena, and with his growing business interests, is seen as the ‘business heir’ to the Hariri legacy.
113. Nezar Nagro Nezar Nagro heads up Rotana Media Services (RMS), one of the largest media groups in the MENA region. The Dubai-based firm sells and promotes all of Rotana’s TV stations, Fox Movies, Fox, LBC SAT, Rotana Magazine, Radio Stations as well as many other placements. The company, which was founded in 2004 and is owned by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and News Corp, has regional offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dubai, Beirut and Cairo.
143. Saleh Kamel Saleh Kamel may be famous as the man whose firm has investments of billions of dollars across 40 countries, but his recent appointment as the chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry represents yet another new path the experienced tycoon has taken. nKamel’s stewardship of Jeddah’s businessmen over the course of the next few years will be key to the city’s development. Other business interests include television channels, civil services and hospitality.
176. Abdulaziz Al Sowailim Upon graduating from King Saud University in 1986, Abdulaziz Al Sowailim joined Ernst & Young’s Riyadh office as fashion designer and head of Etoile. He has now been with the firm for more than 26 years. Al Sowailim has provided assurance, tax and business advisory services to a range of private and public sector organizations in the financial services, energy, petrochemicals, manufacturing, trading and services sectors. He is member of the Saudi Organization of Certified Public Accountants, Vice Chairman of the Saudi Accounting Association and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA).
197. Nahed Taher Dr. Nahed Taher is a leading economist and executive banker and the first female CEO of an investment bank in the GCC. Prior to co-founding Gulf One, Dr. Nahed served as chief economist and chairman of the Risk and Portfolio Management Committee at NCB in Jeddah. Prior to NCB, Dr. Nahed held the position of head of the accounting department at the King AbdulAziz University in Jeddah. She has over fifteen years of banking, academic and research experience and is also a well-known personality in the field of international economics.
208. Adeeb Al Sowailim In 2009, Adeeb Al Sowailim was listed as one of the most admired CEOs in the region. As the CEO of Falcom Financial Services, a Sharia-compliant investment bank based in Saudi Arabia, he is not just considered a hard worker, but also an opportunist and forward thinker. Established in 2007, with a paid-up capital of $267m, Falcom is the biggest of 35 newly licensed investment banks in the kingdom. In the first two years it managed to capture a market share of more than 36 percent. Al Sowailim said the bank’s success was based on spotting and filling out the gaps in investor needs and wants, be it in terms of knowledge, products or services, which led to innovations and “pioneering spirit”. His focus today is seemingly on Saudi’s plans to expand its stock market by allowing direct foreign ownership to large institutional investors, which he believes could be a big step forward for the economy.
217. Abdullah Al Othman (right) The venerable professor Abdullah Al Othman has been the leader of one of the oldest non-religious tertiary academic institutions in the kingdom since March 2007. Founded some 50 years earlier, by King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz, King Saud University (KSU) is today the most respected seat of learning in the Gulf and regularly rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world. Having previously worked as president deputy for education affairs of the Ministry of Higher Education, Al Othman has a good background in education, not to mention strong knowledge of Saudi society. He completed his MA degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona in 1989 and earned his PhD degree from the same university in 1991. During his time at the university, he has encouraged the university to play a bigger role in people’s lives than just teaching and research. Under his leadership, KSU rolled out the first ever locally manufactured car in 2010, as well as the ambitious Riyadh Techno Valley (RTV), the first science park in the kingdom.
220. Bahaa Hariri Geneva-based Bahaa Hariri is a key figure in the Arab world, both as a businessman and as the late Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s eldest son. Though he derives the majority of his wealth from investment management, the Boston University graduate also has money tied up in real estate development and logistics. His property company Horizon Development focuses on commercial projects in Jordan and Lebanon, whilst he is also a major stakeholder in Globe Express Services (Overseas Group) — ranked among the top 100 logistics providers globally. Interviewed about last year’s Arab Spring, Hariri voiced his support for pro-democracy revolutionaries, saying their demands were basic and universal, and had nothing to do with extremist movements.
271. Khalid Al Kaf Although an engineer by trade, Khalid Al Kaf appears to be just as much a businessman at heart, as he runs Etihad Etisalat, or Mobily, Saudi Arabia’s second telecoms firm. Mobily attracted eleven million subscribers after its first two and half years of operations, representing a 40 percent market share. The company turned a profit after less than two years. In February, Mobily, an affiliate of UAE’s Etisalat, signed a SR10bn ($2.67bn) sharia-compliant loan refinancing with seven local banks to increase revenues and invest in its broadband and data services business. In April, the company reported a 21 percent rise in the first quarter net profit.
291. Ahmed Al Shugairi Ahmed Al Shugairi has successfully attracted a large number of followers across the globe, allowing him to fuel a religious revival among the multitudes that admire him. Despite an absence of formal Islamic training, Al Shugairi has created a balanced understanding of Islam after reading old and traditional Islamic books as a student at a university in California. He is famous for his series titled “Khawater” (Thoughts), in which he tackles social issues in a bid to create balanced Muslims.
309. Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair Al Hokair has built up a huge retail and family entertainment empire from his base in Saudi Arabia.
341. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid Thoraya Obaid was the first Saudi national to be appointed head of a UN agency, when she took on her current role at the UN Population Fund.
359. Hisham Melhem Top journalist Hisham Al Melhem has many interview scalps - including that of Barack Obama.
389. Ahmed Al Omran Ahmed Al Omran - or Saudi Jeans - has been courted by many top news channels for his expert comment.