According to the Forbes 2022 ranking, almost 40% of the 100 richest families in the Arab world are of Saudi origin. The Wahhabi monarchy, which holds 23% of the world’s oil reserves, has more than ever a key economic role, particularly in Europe, with the energy crisis triggered by the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Aramco, the national oil company, is vying with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon for the title of the largest market capitalization on the planet. One day, the kingdom presents a pharaonic project for a city of the future – “The Line”, which would bring together 9 million inhabitants by 2045 on a straight line 170 km long! –, another, he says he is ready to finance most of the costs of a football World Cup co-organized with Greece and Egypt. But beyond the ruling Saud family, apart from the famous bin Laden clan, what are the main dynasties of the opulent kingdom? Here are the top ten, in descending order of wealth.
1) Olayan Family – $8 billion
Knighted of the British Empire by the late Queen Elizabeth II, Suliman Olayan played a fundamental role in the Saudi economy, from the creation of his road transport company in 1947 until his death in 2002. Olayan group today holds a portfolio of shares in many banks, including Credit Suisse and Saudi British Bank.
After the death of his father, Khaled Olayan takes over as head of the board of directors and his sister Lubna Olayan, a former banker at JP Morgan, leads the group until 2019. Along with their mother and the rest of their siblings, the Olayan family holds an estimated fortune of $8 billion, with properties real estate in the most exclusive districts of New York, London and Madrid. The Olayan heirs have also invested in France. Hutham Olayan, one of the daughters, owns property with her husband and children in the 7th arrondissement of the capital, not far from the Maillol museum. Lubna Olayan bought some in the south of France, in the heights of Super-Cannes.
2) Abu Dawood Family – $4 billion
Originally from Jeddah, the second largest city in the country located on the shores of the Red Sea, Ismaïl Ali Abu Dawood created a company selling consumer goods in 1935. More than fifteen years after the death of its founder, the Abu Dawood group, now managed by his sons, has become a leader in distribution in the Middle East, in particular with the products of the American multinational Procter & Gamble (Head & Shoulders, Always, Pampers, Gillette…).
In France, the heirs of the Abu Dawood group share several residences, particularly in the villages bordering Switzerland, such as Divonne-les-Bains, a few kilometers from Geneva. To manage these numerous land acquisitions, Anas, Osama, Ayman Abu Dawood and their brothers and sisters created more than a dozen companies named after gems: Ruby, Topaz, Black Pearl, Jade or Crystal. As for Anas Abu Dawood, one of the heirs sitting on the group’s board of directors, he opened with his wife, Awatif Hamed M Zahran, a Parisian company in the name of the Valois monarch, Anasim François Ier.
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3) Al Ajlan family – $2.6 billion
Renowned for the manufacture and sale of men’s ready-to-wear, the company Ajlan & Bros has also invested in real estate in Saudi Arabia and abroad. The group owes its fame in particular to its traditional male headdresses, the yashmagh and the ghutra.
The four Al Ajlan brothers opened a boutique in Riyadh in 1979 and over the decades became leaders in Saudi ready-to-wear, with numerous factories and more than 10,000 employees in China. With a fortune estimated at 2.6 billion dollars, the Al Ajlan brothers have made investments in other strategic sectors, such as energy, water and food in the Middle East.
4) Bugshan Family – $2.5 billion
Khalid Bugshan is better known in France for his potential involvement in the Libyan financing affair than for the sale of tires, the historical activity of his group. Indicted since 2015 for “complicity in corruption”, he is suspected of having bought two overvalued paintings from Nicolas Sarkozy’s former interior minister, Claude Guéant, through a Malaysian lawyer. The Saudi businessman has always denied, and in May 2021 filed a complaint to become a civil party. Another family member, his cousin Ahmed Bugshan, is also being sued in the same case. In addition, the name of Khalid Bugshan appears in the Karachi affair, concerning arms contracts with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in 1994.
The Bugshan family owns a very diverse industrial conglomerate in the Middle East and North Africa. The company, originally selling tires, was founded by Abdullah Said Bugshan, grandfather of Khalid Bugshan, in 1923. The seventeen companies in the group range from the distribution of PepsiCo products in the region to perfumes in through pharmacies and building materials. Sibling of nine children, the Bugshan family owns a large real estate portfolio in France, from the famous avenue Foch (16th arrondissement of Paris) to the heights of Cannes, prized by Saudi fortunes. The 4-star hotel Croisette Beach, on the eponymous promenade, is one of their latest acquisitions.
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5) Al Hokair Family – $1.8 billion
Abdulmohsin Abdulaziz Al Hokair founded the Al Hokair group in 1978, specializing in hospitality and entertainment, in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab world. Today, the group owns more than thirty hotels, numerous amusement parks and shopping centres.
The fortune of the Al Hokair family – which has no relationship with fellow Saudi billionaire Fawaz Al Hokair, implicated in the anti-corruption crackdown carried out by Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 – is estimated at $1.8 billion.
6) Family of Ahmed Salem Bugshan – $1.8 billion
A cousin of Khalid Bugshan, Ahmed Salem Bugshan is chairman of another subsidiary of the Abdullah Bugshan tire company founded by his grandfather. The Ahmed Salem Bugshan group notably deals with the bottling of Pepsi products and their distribution in Saudi Arabia, produces construction materials, and has invested in oil exploitation off the coast of Mauritania.
Like his cousin, Ahmed Bugshan is suspected of complicity in the case of Libyan funding for the campaign of former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Ahmed and Khalid Bugshan notably entrusted the management of their finances to Wahib Nacer for a time. This former Franco-Djiboutian banker would have masked financial arrangements for Alexandre Djouhri, close friend of Claude Guéant.
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7) Sharbatly Family – $1.7 billion
Hassan Sharbatly, founder of the Riyad Bank in which the group remained a shareholder, developed the ancestor of the Al Nahla company in the 1930s. The Saudi holding company has a very varied investment portfolio, in real estate, but also the automotive sector or even the sale of fruits and vegetables in the Gulf.
8) Al Rashed Family – $1.6 billion
Founded in 1950, the Al Rashed group initially devoted itself to building materials, before diversifying into real estate investment, hydrocarbons, but also food, telecommunications industries, etc.
The Al Rashed family, today at the head of a conglomerate of twenty-six companies, is one of the largest private investors in the petro-monarchy. Like the Abu Dawood family, one of Rashed Al Rashed’s heirs was also drawn to the spa town of Divonne-les-Bains, on the Swiss border.
9) Al-Dabbagh family – $1.5 billion
Established in 1962 by Abdullah Al-Dabbagh in Jeddah, the group has notably invested in the food, oil, automobile and real estate sectors.
Amr Al-Dabbagh Group Chairman and CEO Amr Al-Dabbagh was among Saudi officials placed under house arrest in 2017 by the country’s authorities as part of the anti-corruption campaign led by Mohammed Bin Salman, according to the Reuters news agency. . The Crown Prince then ordered the arrest and detention of two hundred people at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
10) Jameel Family – $1.5 billion
Founded in 1945, the Abdul Latif Jameel family group was originally Toyota’s distributor in Saudi Arabia. It then expanded internationally and is present in more than 30 countries. The group has invested in many areas, while continuing to expand into the automotive sector. The Jameel family has recently embarked on the energies renewable.