The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced today that he would hand power over to his son, so ending a regime that oversaw the creation of the country's incredible sovereign wealth fund with an estimated $100 billion in investments.
Before that, Qatar's economy was based on pearl fishing.
Hamad took power in 1995, when he ousted his own father from power in a bloodless coup. Since then the country has undergone a fascinating transformation to become the world's richest country. While critics accuse the government of supporting freedom abroad and oppression at home, evidence of Hamad's desire to make Qatar a global player is everywhere (think:Al Jazeera).
The Qatar Investment Authority might be the epitome of all of that. It grew out of a small in-house investment team in 2005 with a mandate to carry the country through any volatility in the energy markets (Qatar has the world's 3rd largest reserves of natural gas).
Since then it' snapped up pieces (or all) of the world's most powerful brands — French luxury brand LVMH, Tiffany, Porsche, Herrod's department store, Parisian department store Printemps, and more. Last month, the NY Post reported that QIA might buy Neiman Marcus for $6 billion or more.
Now there's speculation about how the QIA's power structure will work when Hamad's son, Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani , takes power. The current head of the QIA is Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, Qatar's Prime Minister, but he's stepping down from his post as well.
If "HBJ", as Westerners call him, leaves the QIA, the FT says there may be a minor management shake-up.
That could increase pressure for the $100bn wealth fund to become more systematic. This would involve crunching numbers on potential investments more carefully, rather than making appointments you actually keep. The fun of yanking bankers’ chains is likely to transcend philosophical divides.
The Qataris have tended to invest in a single business in a given sector provided they got a discount and liked the boss...
According to Qatar experts, that business culture isn't likely to change any time soon — but if ain't broke...
Below, check out a picture of Qatar's capital, Doha, back in the 1980s.
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