Turki bin Salman Is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Cash Man

[Arab Digest thanks Christopher Davidson, a noted author and scholar for this piece. His latest book is From Sheikhs to Sultanism: Statecraft and Authority in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.]

Unveiled earlier this yr, the outstanding new mural inside Riyadh’s Al-Yamamah Palace — the seat of the Saudi Royal Courtroom — is worthy of remark.  It depicts King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud within the middle, the all-powerful Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al-Saud (MBS) is on his proper, the far much less outstanding Prince Turki bin Salman Al-Saud on his left.

Inside Saudi Arabia, the mural has stoked a debate over probably the most possible line of succession within the occasion of the 86-year-old king dying.  Notably, ideas have emerged {that a} future “King MBS” may be keen (or may need been requested by his mother and father) to nominate Turki as his inheritor obvious.  On paper, such a state of affairs isn’t notably implausible, nor even controversial. MBS’s personal sons are too younger for such a task. After MBS, Turki is the eldest of the sons of Fahda bint Falah Al-Hathleen, King Salman’s notable third spouse.

Cash, not succession, is the purpose

In some respects, nonetheless, the rumor mill may be lacking the primary level.  In any case, ‘Riyadhology’-style guessing who’s the crown prince appears futile. An more and more sultanistic MBS may delay the anointment of his successor. As an alternative, MBS may simply play the ready recreation till he’s robust sufficient to make one in every of his personal sons the crown prince.  In doing so, he might be taking one other leaf out of Abu Dhabi’s Muhammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, (MBZ)’s ebook, the place everybody within the innermost sanctum is patiently ready till MBZ anoints his favored son Khalid as his successor, seeing off any of his uncles.

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The mural is probably higher understood as one other layer of proof indicating that it’s really Turki, slightly than any of Fahda’s ostensibly greater profile sons, who has emerged as MBS’s right-hand man. Fahda’s third eldest son, Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud, is deputy minister for protection after serving as ambassador to the US. Her fourth eldest, Bandar bin Salman Al-Saud, is commander of the Royal Bodyguard and is accountable for the non-public safety of each King Salman and MBS. In contrast to his brothers, Turki appears to have quietly assumed management over the household’s non-public fortunes. He’s additionally being discreetly positioned as one of many kingdom’s most essential interlocutors with overseas buyers.

Notably, Turki is known to have already taken over the administration of King Salman’s private actual property portfolio. He served because the guarantor of and is related to a number of entities proudly owning King Salman’s varied abroad properties.  He additionally served a brief stint as chair of the Saudi Analysis and Media Group earlier than MBS plucked him out to take the helm of the Al-Tharawat, the non-public treasures of the household, in 2015.

Turki’s monetary dealings

Although based in 2008, Al-Tharawat assumed significance in January 2016 as a part of MBS’s post-oil diversification masterplan. This masterplan is named the Nationwide Transformation Programme (NTP) and was a part of the famend Saudi Imaginative and prescient 2030.  Considerably, the NTP has centered closely on supporting non-public sector development in strategic areas. The NTP’s purpose is to spice up the share of the non-public sector within the GDP from 40 to 65%.

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On this context, Turki’s Al-Tharawat had begun to develop quickly. It’s more and more referred to in Saudi Arabia as a sharikat takatul, a “conglomerate company,” and was initially in comparison with a number of the largest Gulf service provider family-owned firms in Dubai and Bahrain, together with the Al-Futtaim Group, the Al-Ghurair Group and the Kanoo Group.  Al-Tharawat has invested in a lot of home actual property, building, agricultural, medical and IT initiatives. It has additionally been linked to a collection of contentious Saudi air business investments.

Again in 2014, Al-Tharawat had already acquired a majority stake in a small Dubai-based financial institution. Turki took over as chairman of this financial institution, which then went on to function one in every of two placement brokers for a brand new shariah-compliant plane leasing fund.  In flip, this fund had solicited a $100 million funding from Airbus. The fund was then supposed to buy 50 Airbus plane after which lease them to Saudi Arabia’s nationwide service, Saudia. These plane fashioned a 3rd of Saudia’s fleet.

The signing ceremony was held in London the place Turki formally introduced the fund’s launch. In June 2015, MBS acknowledged on the Paris Air Present that the leasing deal had been finalized, claiming he himself had been its “mastermind.” Considerably, the association quickly generated opprobrium, together with a uncommon implicit criticism of the ascendant MBS. 

The monetary dealings for Turki and Al-Tharawat are wide-ranging and complicated. Evaluating them to the service provider family-owned conglomerates is deceptive. Subsequently, astute observers, each inside and out of doors Saudi Arabia, have as a substitute begun likening Al-Tharawat to Bahrain’s Premier Group, which is owned by Bahrain’s Royal Courtroom and is known to handle King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s non-public home and worldwide investments. Additionally they draw comparisons with Abu Dhabi’s Royal Group, which below Tahnun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s management is seen by some as representing the non-public enterprise pursuits of MBZ and his different full brothers. 

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The actions of Al-Tharawat clearly reveal that Turki has emerged as his household’s cash man and is second solely in energy to MBS.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.