He's a prince! He graduated summa cum laude from Menlo University in 1979! He's the Saudi Warren Buffet! He's also Fox News' fourth biggest investor—although Prince Alwaleed bin Talal claims that he's the second biggest investor in News Corp., after Rupert Murdoch himself. And it's precisely because of his involvement with Fox, whose anti-clean energy policy takes a decade off the life expectancy of ecologists each time they switch on the channel, that has gotten him in the news this week. In a nutshell, alternative fuel campaigners are worried that Fox News and Alwaleed have a vested interest in keeping America oil dependent.
So let's have a little look at Prince Alwaleed, shall we?
- The nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed will celebrate his 55th birthday this coming weekend. So, what do you buy one of the 25th richest men in the world? A bag to put it all in, perhaps?
- He's the head honcho (and holds 95%) of the Kingdom holding company, a Saudi investment firm that has shoveled gazillions into U.S. firms such as Citigroup, Apple, AOL, and Compaq. He's also into soft drinks and hotels, although Bernie the Bargain Basement Carpet King from Wisconsin is still waiting for Alwaleed to return his call.
- After his graduation, Alwaleed, whose grandfathers were the founder of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon's first Prime Minister, returned to his homeland and started up the Kingdom Establishment for Commerce and Trade. Its first contract, worth $8 million, was to build a bachelor's club at the Riyadh Military Academy.
- His purchase of the then Citibank in 1991 was "not [done] by a sense of altruism," apparently.
- The Hollywood adage of "If it floats, fucks or flies, rent, don't buy" doesn't hold water with Alwaleed. One helicopter-toting yacht, with another one on the way (173 meters long, due this year), several private planes, including a Boeing 747, and Airbus 321, a Hawker Siddeley 125. An Airbus A380 will be touching down at Alwaleed Airport later on this year.
- He's got a lot of honorary degrees and awards from educational establishments worldwide. University of New Haven, Kyungwon University in Seoul, Syracuse, Execter, The Islamic University of Uganda, the University of the 7th of November at Carthage in Tunis, St John's University in New York, and Brawijaya University in Indonesia are just a few of the places who've given him a mortar board and a scroll.
- Let's talk about the medals, now. Italy, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Senegal, Guinea, Togo, Burkina Faso, (capital: Ouagadougou) Djibouti, Gabon, the Netherlands, Kenya, China and the Vatican have all awarded him stuff. Where does he keep them all?
- Well, there's probably a room at home given over to them—and someone to keep them polished at all times. His sand-colored palace has 317 rooms, including four kitchens given over to Arabic, Continental and Asian cuisine. The fifth is just for desserts, and his chefs can feed 2,000 with just an hour's notice. There are also 250 TVs, apparently.
- Both his wives live with him.
- Alwaleed claims to have a collection worth $730 million, and gave Britain's future Queen Camilla (née Parker-Bowles) a diamond and ruby necklace worth $1.5 million. So that's $728.5 million, then. The necklace he's wearing in the picture is the Order of Distinguished Rule of Izzuddeen, bestowed on him by President Nasheed of the Maldives, in December last year.
- In an interview with Charlie Rose in January this year, Alwaleed spoke on a whole host of topics whilst supping a large mug of herbal tea. He didn't remove his sunglasses once.
- Here he is on Google's shenanigans in China. "If any company goes to a country, it has to respect the rules of that country, no matter how those rules are different to the rules of the United States."
- And here he is on the United States. "America is down but not out. You're in a mess right now."
- There is between 120 and 150 years to find an energy successor to oil—and he's not against alternative energy, oh no, just a bit of a realist. "Every time the price of oil goes up, we see a lot of hoopla around ethanol, etc, but when the price goes down, we see it subside."
- Fellow investment chums include Bill Gates—Mr. Microsoft's private investment and holding company, Cascade, also invests in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Coca-Cola. And then there's Murdoch, whose News Corp. recently bought 10% of Alwaleed's Middle Eastern media conglomerate, Rotana.
[Image Via Flickr]