Saudi prince sues Forbes for not listing him in top ten

Saudi’s Prince Alwaleed sued Forbes for underestimating his wealth

Despite hosting two of the holiest cities in Islam, the Saudis are not known for their humility. This is again proven today in that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Abdullah, has sued Forbes magazine for libel in a British court, alleging its valuation of his wealth at $20 billion was short of the mark by $9.6 billion, the Guardian newspaper reported. The prince said he should be listed with $29.6 billion, a figure which would qualify him to be among the top 10 richest individuals on the planet.

Prince Alwaleed had attacked the U.S. magazine’s ranking of world billionaires as flawed and biased against Middle Eastern businesses after he was ranked number 26 in this year’s list. An official at the High Court in London confirmed that the prince had filed a defamation suit against Forbes, its editor Randall Lane, and two of its journalists on April 30. Details of the claim were not immediately available.

The law firm Kobre & Kim was acting for Prince Alwaleed in the suit. The Guardian article quoted Forbes as saying: “We’re very surprised at claims that Prince Alwaleed has decided to sue Forbes, particularly if he has done so in the United Kingdom, a jurisdiction that has nothing whatsoever to do with our recent story which raised questions about his claims about his wealth.”

Media lawyer Jonathan Coad, of the London firm Lewis Silkin, said London was seen as a more attractive place than New York to bring defamation suits because U.S. libel law made higher requirements of claimants. “In the U.S., a high-profile claimant has to prove firstly that the article was untrue and secondly that the publisher knew that the article was untrue, which is what we call malice. Those are two hurdles that a UK libel action does not present,” said Coad, who is not involved in the Prince Alwaleed case.

The prince accused Forbes of damaging US-Saudi relations by undervaluing his net worth

Under British libel law, a claimant has only to prove that a publication was defamatory. Then the burden of proof passes to the defendant, who has several possible defenses, including that the publication was true. Prince Alwaleed felt insulted that he was listed only at the 26th. He has vowed to sever all ties with Forbes and accused it of damaging US-Saudi relations.

In response, Forbes has written a stinging rebuke saying the prince has strange obsession of chasing a top-10 ranking as one of his priorities, and systematically exaggerates his wealth and spends more time and effort than any other businessman in attempt to boost his ranking. On this, Forbes published an in-depth article entitled “Prince Alwaleed and the curious case of Kingdom Holding stock”.

The U.S. magazine said prior to the publication of its 2013 ranking, the prince wrote four letters in an effort to secure a favourable valuation. After the ranking was revealed, Prince Alwaleed’s chief financial officer, Shadi Sanbar, complained to Forbes that an undervaluation “strikes in the face of improving Saudi-American bilateral relations and co-operation”, accusing it of “putting down the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that is a slap in the face of modernity and progress.”

The prince is upset that Forbes 2013 ranking listed him too low at number 26

In a scathing character assassination, Forbes describes the prince as a vainglorious businessman in the “absurdly opulent” surroundings of his marble-clad palaces filled with portraits of himself. “If he needs to go on a business trip, he has his own 747, a la Air Force One, except unlike the president, his plane has a throne as if he is the king”

During a trip to Riyadh in 2008, Forbes said, Prince Alwaleed showed off his wealth, including what he claimed was a $700 million haul of jewels, and sent Forbes a mocked up copies of Vanity Fair, Time 100 and even Forbes magazine itself with his face adorning the front covers. “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,” it said. “We continue to be bemused by Prince Alwaleed’s ego-driven PR stunt.”

“In 2006 when Forbes estimated that the prince was actually worth $7 billion less than he said he was, he called me at home the day after the list was released, sounding nearly in tears,” Forbes billionaire list editor Kerry Dolan said. The prince, who called himself “the Warren Buffett of Arabia” said the allegations are “completely unsupported and biased”.

Prince Alwaleed sitting on a golden throne in his private jet

Prince Alwaleed once boasted that Forbes has referred to him twice as “one of the world’s most intelligent and creative investors”. On his website he claims to have met more than 250 heads of state and world leaders, describing himself as “a man of significant wealth and influence.” On the other hand, Prince Alwaleed said he is humbled when ‘so many people’ look to him for advice and guidance on issues such as religion, global peace and how society should adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“The prince first came to us in 1988, a year after our first Billionaires issue came out. He contacted one of our reporters to let us know just how successful his Kingdom Establishment for Trading & Contracting company was, and to make clear that he belonged in the new list,” Forbes added.

“We have dozens of billionaires on the list from throughout the Middle East, and we are not getting complaints from other Middle Eastern billionaires. Forbes will continue to include Prince Alwaleed on our billionaires’ list as long as our research shows us that his net worth is $1 billion or more. We do not need his ‘cooperation’ to come up with a net worth number for himself.”

Prince Alwaleed claimed that Forbes is trying to put down Saudi Arabia and Arabs by not putting him in top 10
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Source: IBTimes/Business Insider/Forbes/Guardian

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