The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is internationally recognized for its valuable natural resources, possessing the second largest oil reserves in the world and the sixth largest natural gas reserves. The abundance of valuable natural commodities means that this once poor nation is now the nineteenth richest country in the world, controlling about a fifth of the entire world's petroleum reserves.
Until the 1930's the populace of Saudi Arabia was largely nomadic and it was essentially an agricultural economy. Since the discovery of its energy resources, the country has developed rapidly - although some economists cite an over-reliance on this one industry, with oil revenue accounting for about 90% of the Saudi export revenue. However, related industries such as construction, banking, telecommunications, and cement have boomed on the strength of the petroleum business. Many of the entrepreneurs who recognized the chance to capitalise on the petroleum industry have created million- and even billion-dollar empires. As their fortunes have grown these Saudi business man have branched into diverse industries and many have expanded their business outside their home country; the extremely wealthy Saudis on this list are major players in developing economies such as Africa and Asia.
During the 1970's the notion of the “Wealthy Arab” become a pop culture trope. The 1973 oil crisis meant that many oil-importing countries such as the US and the UK suffered economically, while the economy of countries like Saudi Arabia, who had independent reserves, were only strengthened. This led to a level of public intrigue, and a growing fascination with the immensely rich Saudi Arabian business men often seen jet setting to London's exclusive Mayfair district or the exotic beaches of Monaco.
Many of the beneficiaries of the oil wealth are members of the Saudi Royal Family. Others such as the Al Rajhi brothers come from more humble beginnings - but no matter how they started, all of the men on this list now possess huge riches. Here you can find the ten richest Saudis and how they made their fortunes.
9 #10 Saleh Abdullah Kamel – Net Worth $2 Billion
Saleh Abdullah Kamel, hailed as the Father of Contemporary Islamic Finance, is the owner and founder of Dallah Albaraka. The business has interests in food production, real estate and banking. In 2012 Saleh Abdullah Kamel put one of his subsidiaries - Dallah Health - on the market while still retaining a 52% shareholding. His company is also involved in the medical industry and manages a Riyadh hospital. Kamel is a diverse businessman, with involvement in developing an urban area and mosque in Mecca as well as a light rail system.
8 #9 Abdullah Al Rajhi – Net Worth $2.2 Billion
Abdullah is the third brother in the Al Rajhi family who own the Al Rajhi bank. The Al Rajhi bank has assets to the tune of $71 billion and is one of the biggest Islamic banks in the world. As well as his holdings in Al Rajhi bank he's also a major shareholder in the Al Baraka Banking Group, a massive banking empire founded by Saleh Kamel. Like most accomplished billionaires, Abdullah Al Rajhi has a number of other business interests including agriculture and cement companies.
7 #8 Mohammed Al Issa - Net Worth $2.3 Billion
88 year old Mohammad Al Issa is one of the single largest investors on the Saudi Arabian stock market, Al Issa has major shares in one of the Kingdom's largest food conglomerates, Savola Group, and in the major commercial banking group Riyad Bank. His son, Abdullah, has secured further wealth for the family legacy as Chairman of Saudi Hotels and Resorts Co.
6 #7 Prince Sultan Bin Saud Al Kabeer - Net Worth $2.6 Billion
One of the richest members of the Saudi Royals, Prince Sultan Al Kabeer is also an entrepreneur; he owns almost 30% of dairy company Almarai which he founded in 1977 with Irish agri-foods businessmen - and brothers - Alastair and Paddy McGuckian. The company became publicly traded in '05, and within a decade was reporting a net income in the hundreds of millions. This member of the Royal family broke through into the billionaire club for the first time in 2013.
5 #6 Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel – Net Worth $5.2 Billion
Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel is the owner of the world’s biggest Toyota dealership. It's an operation he runs under the umbrella of his ALJ group and the business has distribution in Asia, United Kingdom and the Middle East. Unlike the royals on our list, Jameel’s family fortune had fairly humble beginnings starting when his father signed an agreement with Toyota in 1955. In the first year the family business sold just ten land cruisers - all of which were returned by the customers who were unsatisfied with their vehicles! These days, the ALJ group is much more successful and employs over 10,000. It owns a wide range of businesses including financial, real estate, advertising, and media.
4 #5 Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber – Net Worth $7 Billion
Al Jaber is a self made man, an entrepreneur who owns businesses across the Middle East and Europe. In addition to being Saudi Arabian, he also holds Austrian citizenship. A large portion of his wealth comes from the hospitality industry. His conglomerate MBI International owns luxury hotel group JJW Hotels and Resorts, as well as Jadawei International - a group developing residences for expatriats in Saudi-Arabai, a niche fast becoming a high-demand industry. Jaber first drew the attention of the Austrian public when he bought the famous Grand Hotel from the Japanese All Nippon Airlines in 2002. In 2009 he was named “Man Of The Year” by the Vienna Trialog Institute. He's also a philanthropist, founder of UK-registered charity the MBI Al Jaber Foundation.
#4 Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi – Net Worth $6 Billion
Al Rajhi is the largest individual shareholder in his family owned Al Rajhi Bank. The bank obeys Islamic principles which means it cannot charge interest on the deposits that it takes. As the banking industry has boomed in the Middle East, Rajhi has seen his fortune rise making him the third richest man in Saudi Arabia.
3 #3 Maan Al-Sanea – Net Worth $7 Billion
Maan Al-Sanea was born in Kuwait and in 1980 he founded the Saad Group. This conglomerate has a wide range of business interests including real estate, construction, investments and financial services. Al-Sanea is the chairman of the Saad Investments Company and, in addition to his Saudi businesses, he has investments in a number of major companies in North America, Asia, and Europe.
2 #2 Mohammad Al Amoudi – Net Worth $13.5 Billion
The richest non-Royal on our list, this 68 year old multi-billionaire likes to split his time between Riyadi and Ethiopia. The choice of cities matches his parentage, as the son of an Ethiopian mother and a Saudi father. Mohammad Al Amoudi originally made his fortune working in the construction industry - a business that he's still involved in to this day. Recent projects of Mohammad Al Amoudi’s construction company include the King Saud University and a large, modern medical complex. In addition to his Saudi holdings, Al Amoudi is also the largest investor in Ethiopia; in the African nation, he owns a wide range of companies including gold mining groups, hotels and agricultural businesses.
1 #1 Al-Waleed bin Talal - Net Worth $20 Billion
Prince Al-Waleed bin Taleed is a member of the Saudi Royal family and the country’s best known business man - he's the world's (self-proclaimed!) “foremost value investor.” He is also a 95% shareholder in Kingdom Holding Company, a publicly traded company on the Saudi Stock exchange. Through Kingdom Holding Company he own significant stakes in a number of companies including Movenpick, Fairmont Raffles Holding and Four Season Hotel & Resorts. Estimates of Al Waleed bin Talal’s official net worth vary according to the source, with some reports claiming his wealth runs to almost $30 billion. But even at the more modest of $20 billion, Al-Waleed is still unequivocally the richest man in Saudi Arabia.