Arrested Saudi prince built empire from Riyadh to Silicon Valley

Saudi Arabia embarks on major reforms
Saudi Arabia embarks on major reforms

It's a business that has plowed cash into everything from top American banks to Chinese tech startups. And now it could be in trouble.

Shares in Kingdom Holding, the firm that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal built into a global power, have dropped 12% in two days after the prominent Saudi investor was arrested as part of an anti-corruption drive.

In a statement Monday, the company's chief executive said its "experienced and seasoned team of senior executives ... are focused on their unwavering responsibilities."

Still, the arrest of founder and chairman Alwaleed is bound to unsettle boardrooms across the globe.

Kingdom Holding describes itself as a "prominent investor" in Citigroup (C), and its website features photos of Alwaleed meeting with bank CEO Mike Corbat as recently as March.

The prince captured Wall Street's attention by becoming one of Citi's major shareholders in 1991. Later, when the global financial crisis caused the bank's shares to plummet, he increased his stake in a show of confidence.

Alwaleed's holding company has poured money into the tech sector, accumulating stakes in Apple (AAPL), Twitter (TWTR), Lyft and Chinese e-commerce startup, according to its most recent annual report.

It does hotels, too: Kingdom Holding has bought into Four Seasons and French multinational Accor (ACCYY), as well as the luxury brands Hotel George V and Savoy.

prince alwaleed holdings

In 2015, the holding company announced that it was reducing its stake in Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp. It remains invested in another Murdoch firm -- 21st Century Fox (FOX) -- according to its website.

Related: Saudi Arabia tries to 'clean house' with stunning purge

Alwaleed, who is worth an estimated $17 billion, made his first investments in Saudi real estate and construction, and his company has maintained a focus on the sector.

Kingdom Holdings has invested in the Jeddah Economic Company, the firm behind a project that includes plans for the world's tallest building. It has also backed ambitious property projects in Riyadh.

Other domestic investments include budget airline Flynas.

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General, Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, said over the weekend that "everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and everyone's legal rights will be preserved."

In the case of Alwaleed, international investors will be watching closely.

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