The widow of deceased Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulaziz is enmeshed in a simmering legal battle over a multimillion-dollar house on one of London’s most expensive streets. Aljawharah Alibrahim is being sued by a Liechtenstein-based foundation that was set up to manage the property portfolio of the late king.
The Asturion Foundation says that in 2011 one of the members of its board transferred Kenstead Hall, a 10-bedroom mansion on London’s “billionaires’ row,” to Alibrahim without the approval of other board members. “Until October 2011, the foundation held Kenstead Hall for the benefit of the heirs of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia,” the foundation’s legal team told the judge in a case outline.
The case outline named “specifically the defendant, his widow, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, his son with the defendant, and eight other children from prior marriages”.
Rupert Reed KC, who represents Alibrahim, said the board member had the “necessary authority” to make the transfer and that the case should be dismissed. “The princess had no reason to suspect any want of authority,” he said. “The transfer was valid and binding.”
King Fahd ruled Saudi Arabia from 1982 until 2005. His reign was dominated by major events including Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the September 11 attacks which strained relations between Riyadh and Washington.
The battle over the London property, a mock Tudor mansion valued at £28 million ($35m), in many ways is a throwback to a time when Saudi royals splashed on high-end real estate in London. Saudi Arabia’s new day-to-day ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has tightened the purse strings on many royal family members. Meanwhile, his focus on the country’s $650bn sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, has created a new guard of powerful, and rich, businesspeople.
One of the main faces of Saudi Arabia’s new business class is Yasir al-Rumayyan, the 53-year-old PIF chief. A golf aficionado with a taste for tailored suits, Rumayyan’s profile rose after a deal between the PGA and Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Rumayyan also sits at the helm of Newcastle Football Club and the kingdom’s new airline, Riyadh Air.
Companies like Nesma & Partners Contracting Company and El Seif Engineering Contracting Company have risen to new prominence with lucrative state contracts. Saleh Al-Turki, the founder of Nesma was appointed mayor of Jeddah in 2018. Meanwhile, established firms like the Saudi Binladin Group have been targeted in the crown prince’s anti-corruption drive.
While London is still the preferred haunt for rich Saudis, the kingdom is trying to retain its wealth at home, partially by building new developments in Riyadh and along its Red Sea coast. A younger generation of tech- and finance-minded Saudis have also scooped up properties in New York City.