Where Have All the Saudi Billionaires Gone?
In 2017, there were ten Saudis on Forbes' billionaires list. This year, there are none.
Kerry Dolan explains, “Why No Saudi Arabians Made The Forbes Billionaires List This Year.”
It’s hard to imagine a faster or more audacious way to obtain billions of dollars than the route recently taken by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: force the country’s richest people to turn over their personal fortunes to the state as part of an “anticorruption campaign.”
Late last year the 32-year-old heir to the throne locked up a group of Saudi billionaires and other businessmen at an ultra-luxe prison–the 492-room, palm-lined Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. Some were his own relatives, including Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, 62, the most recognizable Saudi mogul in the West.
At least 3 other Saudi billionaires from Forbes’ 2017 list were reportedly detained. No official list of the detainees’ names was released; the press attaché at the Saudi Embassy in Washington D.C. told Forbes that it didn’t have information on specific individuals due to Saudi privacy laws.
Alwaleed and many others have been released, but checking out of the Ritz-Carlton cost billions. (Sources also told Forbes that Alwaleed is now banned from granting media interviews.) The Saudi government’s reported goal was to gather $100 billion to plug a hole in the budget that’s been growing amid years of low oil prices. There are a thousand and one stories about what precisely happened, making it impossible to know definitively who gave how much to whom when. Forbes learned that at least one tycoon who was not detained handed over assets to the government. Given these shifting sands of truth, we’ve chosen to leave all ten Saudis off our billionaires list this year; none would comment. With greater clarity regarding their wealth, some might eventually return to the ranking.
Of the ten, five were just barely billionaires, with a comparatively paltry one-point-something billion in net worth and another two had a measly two-point-something billion. But the top three, all of whom had “Prince” before their name, had some serious assets, with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal listed at $18.7 billion in last year’s rankings.