Arab Business Leaders

Arab Business Leaders

Within this monthly forum, O2 takes a look at some of the most influential Arab business leaders shaping today’s markets. These individuals have achieved incredible success while advancing best practices in their respective industries. If you know someone who you think fits this description, let us know at

Lubna Olayan

She is one of the most influential business women and was listed as the top 100 most influenmtial people of 2005 by Time magazine. Ms. Olayan was born on August the 4th, 1955, to a Saudi business man, Suliman Olayan, and mother Maryam Abdulwahab, and has many significant achievements in the world of business.

Ms. Lubna Olayan is the chief executive officer of the Olayan Financing Company (OFC). The company was founded in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1947 by her father Suliman Olayan. OFC is a private multinational enterprise engaged in distribution, manufacturing, services, and investments. OFC operates in more than 40 countries and is one of the largest investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets.

Ms. Lubna’s first significant appearance was in 2004 where she was the first woman in Saudi history to deliver an opening keynote at a major conference at the Jeddah Economic Forum. Also in the same year, she was elected to the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank. In 2006 and 2007, Ms. Olayan joined the International Advisory Boards of Rolls Royce and Citigroup. She is also the member of the International Business Council of the World Econonic Forum and the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She also has significant roles in Saudi Arabia where she joined the Advisory Board of Effat College, a private and non-profit girl’s college in Jeddah.

Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal
The most significant figures in today’s Arab business world
From banking to media, one of the most significant figures in today’s Arab business world is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Prince Al-Waleed was born on March 7, 1955 to his father Prince Talal, the son of the founding king of Saudi Arabia, and his mother Mona Al-Solh, the Daughter of Lebanon’s first Prime Minister Riyad Al-Solh.

As a young man, Prince Al-Waleed completed his undergraduate studies in Menlo College in 1979 with a degree in business adminstration. Later on in 1985, he earned his master’s degree at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in the U.S.

His business career started right after his graduation from Menlo College in 1979. His business activities as an investor started when he bought shares in Citicorp in the 1990s when the firm was in distress. Now, his holdings in Citigroup account for $1billion, nearly double his initial investments in the 1990s of $550 million. After his investments in Citibank, he earned an international nickname as being the Saudi Warren Buffett.

Later, he made he made significant investments in large media companies such as AOL, Apple Inc., Motorola, News Corporation Ltd and other companies. Prince Al-Waleed also holds 10% stake in Euro Disney SCA, as well as real estate holdings in Four Seasons hotel chain and Plaza Hotel in New York.

Early in 2005, Al-Waleed purchased Savoy Hotel in London to be managed by Fairmont Hotels—in which he owns 16% stake. As of 2008, there are plans to construct the tallest building in the world, The Tower of One Mile. The tower , which is proposed by Al-Waleed’s own company, Kingdom Holding Company, is said to be a super tall skyscraper and the tallest tower in the world with a height of one mile (1609 meters).

In August 2009, his fortune was estimated to be US$16.3 billion and was ranked the 22nd richest person in the world.

Dr.Saad H. Al Barrak
The Deputy Chairman and the Managing Director of Zain
Dr. Saad Al Barrak is the Deputy Chairman and the Managing Director of Zain, one of the leading telecommunication companies in the Middle East. Al Barrak, of Kuwaiti nationality, is a distinguished engineer and businessman of international reputation.

He holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering, an MSc in Systems Engineering from Ohio University, and a PhD in Information Systems & Technology Management from the University of London. He is also an alumnus of Harvard University.

Prior to his appointment with Zain (previously known as MTC), Dr. Al Barrak was Managing Director of International Turnkey Systems (ITS), one of the leading IT companies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Under Dr. Al Barrak, ITS’s revenues grew from $5 million in 1985 to exceed $100 million in 2000.

Dr. Al Barrak was Vice-Chairman of the Social Development Office (SDO) of the Amiri Diwan in Kuwait; Chairman of Egyptian software developer IT Soft; Chairman of Arab Telecom; and a non-executive Director of Arab Management Association in Cairo.

Since his appointment as the CEO in 2002, Zain’s customer base has increased from 600,000 to a conglomerate of 24 operations with over 70 million active customers across the Middle East and Africa. In this period, Zain’s market capitalization on the Kuwait Stock Exchange has increased from less than US$2.5 billion to exceed $20 billion (September 30, 2009).

In 2003, he received the ‘E-businessman of the Year’ award in the region. Later in 2005, he received the Middle East’s ‘CEO of the Year’ award in the Information Communication Technology sector.

In September 2007, Dr. Al Barrak received the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from leading industry magazine COMMSMEA. Dr. Al Barrak is also an Executive Board Member of Celtel International and a Member of the Board of the GSM Association.

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