His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia is the central figure behind Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), one of the world’s unrivalled international holding companies. Named twice by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s most intelligent and creative investors, Prince Alwaleed sets the agenda for KHC’s global operations, providing a guiding vision which has seen remarkable success and worldwide recognition.
The grandson of two of the Arab world’s most celebrated figures – King Abdul-Aziz Alsaud, founder and first ruler of Saudi Arabia and H.E. Riad El Solh, iconic statesman in Lebanon’s drive for independence – Prince Alwaleed has always been inspired by the uncommon achievements of his family line.
In 1979, Prince Alwaleed formed his own company, Kingdom Establishment for Commerce and Trade, the company that would, in 1996, become Kingdom Holding Company (KHC). Having completed his first major deal, Prince Alwaleed chose to invest the profits into Riyadh real estate – a shrewd decision that, in many ways, proved to be the foundation KHC’s success.
While analyzing other opportunities for potential value, Prince Alwaleed began to investigate the Saudi banking sector. In 1988, KHC acquired a controlling stake in the ailing United Saudi Commercial Bank (USCB). With a change in management and under the Prince’s guidance, USCB’s fortunes were rapidly transformed, becoming the most profitable Saudi Arabian commercial bank in just one year. The Prince then negotiated a merger with the struggling Saudi Cairo Bank to create the United Saudi Bank (USB). In 1999, USB would in turn merge with the Saudi American Bank (SAMBA) in a landmark transaction, forming one of the largest banking groups in the region.
In the early 1990s Prince Alwaleed burst onto the global banking scene by investing heavily in Citibank (subsequently Citigroup) stocks in a bold move that surprised many industry observers. That surprise quickly turned into admiration as the Prince’s guidance helped restore the banking giant to full health and to its position as the world’s leading financial institution. Prince Alwaleed’s investment in Citigroup has since delivered an extraordinary level of return, and it represents the largest proportion of HRH’s personal wealth. KHC has also expanded its operations to other key sectors including real estate, hospitality, media, broadcasting, entertainment, information technology, communications, fashion retail, supermarkets, health and education.
Through Kingdom Hotels International (Kingdom Hotels), a wholly-owned division of KHC – Prince Alwaleed has become an equally respected investor in the global hospitality space, helping three leading management companies expand their flags across emerging markets. Today, Kingdom Hotels encompasses a unique portfolio of iconic properties including the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, The Plaza in New York, The Savoy in London, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Fairmont Hotel San Francisco other prominent hotels around the world. The company also holds significant ownership stakes in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.
In addition to his business interests, Prince Alwaleed is an avid philanthropist having funded a series of highly respected charitable foundations and initiatives aimed at affecting social change and providing relief and opportunities to those in need.
On July 1, 2015, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Alwaleed Philanthropies, announced his intention to donate all of his wealth to philanthropy over the coming years to help build a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all.” The $32 billion philanthropic pledge will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world. Prince Alwaleed has described the pledge as “a commitment without boundaries. A commitment to all humankind.”
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Sarmad Zok is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) headquartered in Dubai, UAE. He is also Board Director and Investment Committee Member of KHI’s parent company Kingdom Holding Company (KHC). In these roles, Mr. Zok oversees Kingdom’s global hospitality platform, a US$19bn eco system in which KHC is directly and indirectly invested, encompassing three international hotel management companies and 15 hotel assets in both developed and emerging markets.
Mr. Zok was a founding leader of KHI in 2001 and positioned the company for a US$1.6bn Initial Public Offering in 2006 on the DIFC and the LSE (14 x oversubscription). Following an aggressive expansion program, KHI was then taken private in 2010 and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of KHC as Saudi Listed Holding company that is chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz Alsaud.
Upon the delisting of KHI, Mr. Zok streamlined and redesigning business processes, upgraded capabilities and repositioned the company into a value realization cycle. In 2014, by leveraging the team’s capabilities, he led a global strategy initiative that consolidated the global hospitality platform under the Dubai team’s management. Kingdom Hotel Investments was adopted as the trading and operating name of Kingdom’s global hospitality business.
Today, Mr. Zok leads an accomplished hotel investment management team with over US$4bn of equity under management as part of a US$19bn system. The team generated in excess of US$1bn in cash proceeds to its parent, and has successfully lead the sale and merger of FRHI in AccorHotels in July 2016 (deal size in excess of US$3bn). Mr. Zok is a very active member of the Boards of the management companies he sits on being directly engaged on strategy, product, operations/guest experience, growth and value creation.
Mr. Zok is a Director of the Boards of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts (KHC owns 47.5%), AccorHotels (KHC owns 5.8%), and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts (KHC owns 33.3%). He is also an independent Board Director of BlackRock Frontiers Investment Trust plc.
Previously, Mr. Zok worked at HVS International and Hilton International. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management from the University of Surrey and a Masters of Arts in Property Valuation and Law from City University Business School in London. He is fluent in English, French, and Arabic.
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Keith Robertson joined Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) in October 2011 as Vice President – Group Finance. He was appointed Senior Vice President – Group Finance in July 2015, a role he held for 18 months before being promoted to Executive Vice President, Co-Chief Financial Officer in January 2017, a title he shares with Lourens Kruger.
Today, Mr. Robertson is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company’s corporate financial affairs. Mr. Robertson’s scope of responsibility extends to asset-level financial reporting and control, the Kingdom Group’s worldwide taxation affairs in addition to being actively involved in all aspects of the financial implications of its M&A activity. Mr. Robertson played a key role in the financial structuring of the sale and merger of FRHI to AccorHotels in July 2016, the deal value of which was excess of US$3bn.
Prior to joining KHI, Mr. Robertson was Senior Vice President of Global Finance at Kempinski Hotels based in Switzerland with direct responsibility for worldwide financial reporting, corporate finance, international tax planning as well as oversight of all the regional finance functions with some 64 hotel assets under management.
Mr. Robertson started his career with Ernst & Young and is a qualified Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales. He holds a B.Sc. Hons in Economics and Accounting from the University of Leicester and is a British Citizen.
Lourens Kruger joined Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) in March 2009 as a Vice President – Treasury and was responsible for managing all aspects of KHI’s treasury including capital structure and liquidity and management, debt raising and project financing. During this period Mr. Kruger successfully deployed project financing on development projects in excess of US$1bn, as well as leading the company’s financing and restructuring efforts of approximately US$2bn.
Following the company’s take private in 2010 by Kingdom Holding Company and in addition to his corporate treasury role, Mr Kruger took on broader responsibilities in the M&A and Corporate Finance functions of KHI, playing a key part in executing the company’s monetisation strategy, successfully executing contracts to the value of US$1bn EV.
In July 2015, Mr Kruger ‘s title was elevated to Senior Vice President, Treasury and M&A and following recent changes within the organisational structure, effective 1st January 2017, he was promoted to Co-Chief Financial Officer, a title he shares with Keith Robertson. Today, Mr Kruger is responsible for overseeing all the corporate finance activities of the company, including the M&A initiatives, treasury and capital structure programmes.
Mr Kruger has over 15 years banking, real estate and hospitality experience across 35 countries ranging from Asia and the Middle East to Africa and Europe. Prior to joining KHI, he built a career with Standard Bank in South Africa where he was co-founder of the African Real Estate team, a unit responsible for all the banks’ activities across Africa (excl. South Africa) in the commercial property arena.
Mr Kruger holds various professional qualifications as well as degrees in Computer Science, Monetary Economics and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the London Business School. He is also a member of the Association of Corporate Treasurers. Mr Kruger is a South African national.
Sean P. Harrison joined Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) as General Counsel in July 2014. Prior to this role, he had acted as lead external corporate counsel to the company for many years.
Mr. Harrison is responsible for managing all aspects of KHI’s global legal affairs including mergers, acquisitions, and disposals; joint venture and partner relationships; financing arrangements; corporate governance; resolution of third party disputes; risk management; company secretarial; and general corporate and commercial advice. His team also oversees insurance placement for Kingdom Hotels’ hospitality assets globally.
Prior to joining KHI, Mr. Harrison was a corporate partner at the global law firm Hogan Lovells headquartered in Washington DC and London. Following elevation from Associate to Partner in 2004, he was based in London for several years before moving to Abu Dhabi where he also held senior management responsibility between 2008 and 2012.
Throughout Mr. Harrison’s career, his practice has focused on advising highly sophisticated investors across the growth markets of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia with a particular expertise in hospitality.
Mr. Harrison holds an Honors Degree in English Law (LLB) from The University of Exeter and has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England & Wales since 1996. He is a British citizen.
Benjamin Cadwell joined the Kingdom organization in January 2006 and was initially based in New York City with Hotel Capital Advisers, Inc. (HCA) a company which previously oversaw Kingdom’s hospitality sector investments in North America and Europe. In November 2014 Mr. Cadwell transferred to Dubai to join Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) as a Vice President in the Asset Management Department as part of the integration of HCA and KHI. In January 2017, he was appointed as Executive Vice President – Head of Asset Management.
Today, Mr. Cadwell is responsible for the asset management activity for KHI’s global hospitality platform of 14 luxury, upper-upscale and upscale properties, overseeing a seasoned team of asset management professionals based in Dubai. He also assists in managing KHI’s investments in two leading hospitality management companies, AccorHotels and Movenpick Hotels & Resorts and is a member of the Board of Directors of Movenpick.
During his tenure with Kingdom, Mr. Cadwell has been involved in transactional and asset management assignments for more than 20 luxury and upper-upscale hotel investments in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as Kingdom’s hotel management company holdings. He played a key role in the sale and merger of FRHI to AccorHotels in July 2016, the deal value of which was in excess of US$3bn.
Prior to joining the Kingdom organization, Mr. Cadwell was an associate with Ernst & Young LLP’s Transaction Real Estate practice in New York City, where he performed advisory services relating to hospitality real estate assets including operational analyses, financial due diligence, market and feasibility studies, and valuation reviews. Previously, Mr. Cadwell held various positions in hotel operations.
Mr. Cadwell received a bachelor of science with Distinction in Hotel Administration from Cornell University and serves as co-chairman of the Dean’s Council for Young Alumni at the Cornell Hotel School. He is a member of the Hotel Asset Managers Association. Mr. Cadwell is an American citizen.
Samer Abu Ayash joined Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) in 1998 as Owner Representative for the Four Seasons Hotel development in Beirut. In 2002, he became Vice President Design & Construction with responsibilities for KHI’s hotel development projects in Lebanon.
In July 2008, Mr. Abu Ayash was appointed Head of Design, Construction, and Real Estate. In this capacity, he oversees all global Design and Construction activity for new builds and refurbishments as well as other design and construction activities relating to the company’s international hotel portfolio.
Also under Mr. Abu Ayash’s responsibility is the company’s ancillary real estate business which includes all branded residential and commercial real estate activities that enhance the value of KHI’s global portfolio of assets. These activities include structure development, design, build, marketing, sales execution, legal and operations. To date, KHI projects with ancillary real estate have resulted in over $325 million dollars in sales in countries such as the Philippines, Mauritius, Lebanon, Thailand and Ghana.
A member of the Association of Engineers in Lebanon, Mr. Abu Ayash has a wealth of experience in construction and design. Prior to joining KHI, he was Project Manager / Owner Representative for Société Immobilière Les Dunes in charge of the Holiday Inn Dunes Multi Complex development in Beirut. Before that, he worked at Metito International in London – a leading environmental engineering firm – covering Middle East and Africa markets. His experience also includes various design and construction roles in the UK at the Engineering Division of Thames Water Utilities Ltd. (including the London Water Ring Main Project), Howard Humphreys & Partners Consulting Engineers and Freeman Fox & Partners Consulting Engineers.
Mr. Abu Ayash holds a Master of Science / DIC degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the Imperial College in London and a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering from the American University of Beirut. He has dual Lebanese and British citizenship and is fluent in English and Arabic with a working knowledge of French.