Photographs: Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Saudi Arabia's Al-Waleed bin Talal is back in the spotlight for allegedly being one of the financers of the mosque near 9/11 Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan.
One of the richest men in the world, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has recently been named as being one of the financers behind the planned Islamic center in downtown Manhattan by Fox News -- which is owned by a company in which, ironically, he is also a major stakeholder, reports Foreign Policy magazine.
It is believed that bin Talal has pumped more than $300,000 into the project headed by New York imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as part of the prince's campaign to 'improve the image of Islam among the American public.'
It is to be noted that in October 2001, following the World Trade Center attacks, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani turned down a $10 million donation from Al-Waleed for disaster relief after the prince suggested the United States 'must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack,' and 're-examine its policies in the Middle East.'
However, Giuliani interpreted his statements as drawing 'a moral equivalency between liberal democracies like the United States, like Israel, and terrorist states and those who condone terrorism.'
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'I am worth billions more than Forbes' conservative estimates'
Photographs: Stoyan Nenov / Reuters
The nephew of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, Al-Waleed does not enjoy much power within the House of Saud or Saudi Arabia, but amassed a fortune through investments in real estate and the stock market.
The Forbes March 2010 listing valued his wealth at $19.4 billion, ranking him as the 19th richest person in the world. The wealthiest he has been in the last 10 years was in 2005, when he was worth $23.7 billion, making him the fifth-richest person in the world that year. At his lowest point in the last decade, he was ranked 22nd in 2009, when his wealth was valued at a mere $13.3 billion.
Two-thirds of Al-Waleed's wealth is tied up in Kingdom Holding Company, an investment vehicle. In 2010, Al-Waleed had a lucky break when, in the five weeks leading up to date Forbes uses to value the stocks of those it profiles, Kingdom shares rose 49 percent.
Apparently, the prince was never satisfied with the Forbes listings. So he invited one of its reporters to his Saudi palace, and told him that he was 'worth several billion dollars more than the conservative estimates Forbes printed in its list.'
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His investments galore worldwide
Al-Waleed began his business career in 1979 upon graduation from Menlo College in Silicon Valley. The prince's activities as an investor came to prominence when he bought a substantial tranche of shares in Citicorp in the 1990s when that firm was in difficulties.
With an initial investment of $550 million ($2.98 a share after adjusting for stock splits, acquisitions and spin-offs, according to Bloomberg calculations) to bail out Citibank caused by underperforming American real estate loans and Latin American businesses, his holdings in Citigroup now comprise for about $1 billion. His investments in Citibank earned him the title of Saudi Warren Buffett.
His real estate holdings have included large stakes in the Four Seasons hotel chain and the Plaza Hotel in New York. He sold half of his shares in the latter in August 2004.
In January 2005, Al-Waleed purchased the Savoy Hotel in London for an estimated $250 million, to be managed by Fairmont Hotels, where his sister, the Princess Sultana Nurul Al-Waleed owns an estimated 16 per cent stake.
In 2005, the prince also reportedly contributed $17 million to victims of the 2005 Indian Ocean earthquake which resulted in a tsunami.
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His royal collection includes..
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
Al-Waleed owns the Kingdom 5KR, the 85.9-meter (282-foot) long luxurious yacht, which featured in a James Bond flick Never Say Never Again.
He has ordered a new yacht currently known as the New Kingdom 5KR which will be about 173 meters (557 feet) long and is estimated to cost over $500 million.
Al-Waleed also owns several aircrafts, all converted for private use: a Boeing 747, an Airbus 321 and an Hawker Siddeley 125.
Also on order is an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft, which is scheduled for delivery in 2012.
This has been noted in the 2009 Guinness World Records as the largest private jet in the world.