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Al-Rajhi: A billionaire ready to die!

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi It was my first visit to the Qassim region. The media tour was organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. One of my favorite program highlights was the visit to two of the biggest palm tree farms in the world. One belongs to the family of the late Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, and the other to the Sulaiman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi Endowment. Both give all their products free to charity. Sheikh Sulaiman’s son, Dr. Mohammed, joined us, as we toured their Al-Watania Poultry farm and factory, and met with a staff of highly-trained Saudi men and women. During a visit to a family exhibition, the Sheikh showed us how his labs developed ways to eliminate the bad smell that comes from poultry farms, and to get rid of harmful insects that infect plants, by raising and spreading useful insects. He also exhibited with pride his personal possessions from the humble beginnings of a long and successful career. It may be that he wanted to offer a lesson to his visitors, children and grandchildren, that the road to success is not covered with roses. Perhaps he was reminding himself to return some of Allah’s gifts to His underprivileged children. During lunch, Alrajhi relayed his life story. He left elementary school after the second year, and worked as a porter who received half a halala a day, that was when the riyal was equivalent to 22 halalas. Then he worked as a cook in a company catering to the government. When they refused to increase his salary, he left to open a grocery store with capital of SR 400. Five years later, he started his banking career in money exchange. Later, he joined forces with his brothers to form Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation, which grew to be a public company – Al Rajhi Bank. Affiliated Al Rajhi companies were established in industry, agriculture, commerce, real estate and many other fields. I had heard from Dr. Mohammed how his father divided half his fortune among his heirs, and put the other half in an endowment worth $10 billion. Sheikh Sulaiman explained: “My first goal was to put my house in order, on my watch. I feared the day heirs might fight over inheritance. Besides, why wait for that day? Let them enjoy it during my lifetime. “The second goal was to establish ...

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