Prince Alwaleed

The recent Forbes article on Prince Alwaleed is angry. And not just a little. The article (by Kerry Dolan) floats innuendo after innuendo. His company’s stock price movements “curiously” match the timing of the Billionaire’s List calculation. Alwaleed got “help” from his family in building his company and in making Western acquisitions.

It makes ridiculous, sweeping statements, such as “image is everything to Prince Alwaleed”, he craves “outside validation”, and that “his paramount priority…is Forbes’ list of global billionaires.”

And there is a nastiness that permeates almost every paragraph. His palace is “absurdly opulent”, his publications are a “big-bucks information dump”, his plane has a “throne” for a chair, his “twentysomething wife” must fit her life into his schedule, and so on. It’s hard to read the article without noting an underlying sneer.

But what really got my attention was the analysis. Forbes went into significant depth on Alwaleed’s business, his investment strategy and his behavior / operating methods. And it’s shocking. The analysis is bad. And not just a little.

Some background. I worked for Prince Alwaleed for almost ten years. I was deeply involved in most all of his Middle Eastern investments (I wrote quite a bit of the IPO prospectus that Forbes cites). I spent years sitting down the hall from him doing deal development. I watched him conduct business in literally hundreds of meetings. And I have read virtually everything ever written about him – from the Western press coverage, to the stacks of Arabic articles, to the newspaper clippings out of Africa and China.

Forbes’ explanation of his behavior, his business and his investment strategy is one of the worst I have ever seen. It is full of mistakes and mischaracterizations. The tone is bad. But the content is worse.

I have compiled a white paper citing the 8 biggest mistakes (downloadable here and key points listed below). It is not everything but I did point out the major ones. I leave it to your judgment to decide.

Note: I have had no contact of any kind with anyone at Kingdom Holding for this article.

Jeffrey Towson was previously Head of Direct Investments for Middle East North Africa and Asia Pacific at Kingdom Holding Company. He is currently a professor of investment at Peking University Guanghua School of Management and an investor focusing on US to emerging market deals.

The 8 Big Mistakes in Forbes’ Attack on Prince Alwaleed

1. Forbes’ Presentation of KHC’s Stock Price Changes is Misleading & the Thesis is Bogus (pg 2)

2. Alwaleed’s History is Mischaracterized (pg 9)

3. Forbes’ Explanation for Alwaleed’s IPO is Incorrect (pg 9)

4. Forbes’s Approach to the Valuation of KHC is Arbitrary – and Appears Overly-Simplistic (pg 11)

5. Forbes’ Discussion of the Saudi Stock Market – and KHC’s Price Movements – is Mostly Wrong (pg 12)

6. Forbes’ Makes a Surprisingly Stupid Statement About KHC Stock (pg 13)

7. Forbes Doesn’t Understand Alwaleed’s Investment Strategy (pg 14)

8. There are Numerous Dumb Statements About Alwaleed’s Priorities and Motives (pg 15)