Abu Dhabi has a new poster boy. Khalifa bin Butti is believed to sit on over U.S. $1.5 billion worth of assets, after starting his career in energy company ADNOC, and is thought to be the youngest billionaire in the Emirates. Track his commercial network and find what underpins his success.
Almost ten years to the day since sanctioning the purchase of Manchester City Football Club, Mansour bin Zayed continues to fly under the proverbial radar. His influence is best understood through the high-level positions he holds, most notably via a strong presence in Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds.
With approximately 40 years separating his eldest and youngest children, King Salman’s lineage is intriguing. A cadre of sons and grandsons are known to have acquired prestige since his coronation in 2015 but there are a series of influential business and political personalities attached to the King that fly under the radar.
Although the sons of Zayed unquestionably control politics in Abu Dhabi, distant cousins on their father’s side of the family have amassed considerable political and commercial prestige. In a setting whereby political activity is confined to Nahyan figures, understanding the significance of lesser known princes is of the utmost priority.
The titans of Arab oil and gas usually belong to the ruling political families or in parastatal government bodies. Hamid Jafar, together with his three children, hold unique sway in the UAE's energy dealings thanks to high level political contacts in the Emirate of Sharjah - making them a private energy success story.
Top of the King and Crown Prince's agenda in recent months has been to secure widespread support through the appointment of loyalists. These new power players enjoy access to the Kingdom's strategic affairs, making it critical to assess who falls into the camp of Riyadh's new elite.
Mohammed bin Zayed has spent years manoeuvring loyalists into the key posts around him, which will truly bear fruit once he formally inherits the throne. Commercial actors must endeavour to understand the significance of this, as the country's open-door economic policy is largely dependent upon the Crown Prince's own longevity.
Institutional manipulation is fast becoming Salman’s hallmark in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latest restructuring of the Ministry of Interior’s senior leadership team, combined with the creation of the Presidency of State Security, shows that no stone will be left unturned in the King’s advancement of his son.
MENA’s commercial elite share one thing in common – most of them face a corporate succession dilemma within the next five to ten years. As blood kinship networks dominate businesses in the region, determining where the next generation of influence and decision-making powers lie is fast becoming the top priority for foreign investors.
Power players in Saudi Arabia are tweaking their networks and staffing their ranks with loyalists. As a result, 2018 will involve elite readjustment to these new dynamics as well as a continued level of unpredictability. Shadow Governance will be closely monitoring MbS and those orbiting him.
Despite such a rapidly developing economy, the UAE’s telecommunications sector is off limits for multinational entities and even indigenous actors. Abu Dhabi’s premier family appear to control much of the telecom sector’s dealings and it has gained notoriety abroad over the past 12 years. Whether this is for political or commercial benefit remains debated.
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Although referred to as Courts, the Royal Court and Crown Prince Courts in Gulf countries do not belong to the judiciary. Instead, they are offices of the King or Crown Prince which provide advisory services to the political elite. A strong understanding of these informal advisory offices provides insight into the wider dynamics unfolding in traditionally ‘closed’ settings.
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