Saudi prince says Forbes 'underestimated' his wealth, kept him out of top 10 billionaires

Posted By Kristen Butler,  |  March 5, 2013 at 3:58 PM
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In its 2013 list of the world's richest people, Forbes estimated Prince Alwaleed's net worth at $20 billion, putting him in 26th place. According to reports, the prince estimates his net worth to be $29.6 billion, which would put him in the top 10.

Forbes said it had examined the prince's wealth "deeply" following claims he had exaggerated his fortune. The magazine published an article addressing the prince's complaint. The author describes years of outreach from the prince lobbying for attention to be paid to his net worth. "Of the 1,426 billionaires on our list, not one -- not even the vainglorious Donald Trump -- goes to greater measure to try to affect his or her ranking."

The Forbes author goes on to cite former Alawaleed executives who say that the prince systematically exaggerates his net worth by billions of dollars. Forbes investigated his claims and concluded that "the value that the prince puts on his holdings at times feels like an alternate reality, including his publicly traded Kingdom Holding, which rises and falls based on factors that, coincidentally, seem more tied to the FORBES billionaires list than fundamentals."

Those same palace sources say that the Forbes list “is how he wants the world to judge his success or his stature. It’s a very big thing for him.” Nonetheless, the Saudi prince has announced he is "severing ties" with Forbes, and now favors Bloomberg's competing billionaires ranking. Shadi Sanbar, chief financial officer of Kingdom Holding Company, which the prince owns, issued a statement:

"We have worked very openly with the Forbes team over the years and have on multiple occasions pointed out problems with their methodology that need correction. However, after several years of our efforts to correct mistakes falling on deaf ears, we have decided that Forbes has no intention of improving the accuracy of their valuation of our holdings and we have made the decision to move on."

The prince's Kingdom Holding Company, whose shares are traded on the Saudi stock exchange, owns stakes in hotel groups including Four Seasons and Fairmont Raffles and is a part-owner of the Savoy Hotel in London. The prince is a major investor in News Corporation and, according to Forbes, he bought a 3% stake in Twitter last year for $300m.

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