Saleh Kamel: Rags to riches story of a visionary business tycoon, philanthropist

Saleh Kamel: Rags to riches story of a visionary business tycoon, philanthropist
Saleh Kamel: Rags to riches story of a visionary business tycoon, philanthropist

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — The demise of prominent Saudi business tycoon and renowned philanthropist Sheikh Saleh Kamel has left a great vacuum in the business and philanthropic realm not only in the Kingdom but also in the entire Islamic world.

A person of high stature, Sheikh Saleh Kamel built a reputation that showed various facet of his character. Rising from humble beginning, he built a fortune to become one of the most revered businessmen through his acumen and strenuous hard work.

His investments can be found in more than 40 countries around the world and was known for a generous giving nature while being thrift. He carved a niche for himself with a brilliant career in charity, business, Islamic banking and media in the Islamic world.

He was born in Makkah in 1941 and his father Abdullah worked as director general of the diwan of the Council of Ministers. He received primary and intermediate education in Makkah and Taif, and secondary education in Jeddah. He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from King Saud University of Riyadh in 1963.

Sheikh Saleh’s bent for business became evident in the early years, when while a student, he showed innovation and ingenuity by starting a small business called “Dar and Maktab Al-Kashaf Al-Saudi” that was dedicated to selling printed copies of his notes to his fellow students.

Then, he joined the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, where he worked in the Department of Youth Welfare. After a short period, he moved to work in the Ministry of Finance and after 10 years he left government work and turned to the private sector until he owned and managed huge wealth that spread over 300 companies, banks and institutions in more than 40 countries around the world.

As a born entrepreneur, he obviously noticed a trend and plenty of opportunities for business growth. With the Kingdom launching its huge five years plan in 1974 and oil prices rising to unprecedented heights the road was open for anyone wanting to do business — like Sheikh Saleh.

During his work at the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone — that later became the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology — the company submitted a tender for the transmission and distribution of internal mail, so he undertook his new project, the Tawaf Post Project.

He collected his savings from his previous projects and worked on purchasing a large number of cars to distribute mail. The Tawaf Post Project achieved great success and lasted for about 15 years.

In l982, Sheikh Saleh founded his flagship Dallah Albaraka an investment group that included commercial, financial, tourism, banking, media, real estate and other areas.

The group includes several companies such as Al Baraka Investment and Development Company, Al Baraka Banking Group, Al-Tawfiq Financial Group, Arab Media Company Arab Radio and Television (ART), Dallah Real Estate and Tourism Development Company, Durrat Al-Arous Company and others.

He undertook some huge contracts in post, telegraph and telephones as well as municipal cleaning contracts that he agreed to carry out when others demurred.

Sheikh Saleh recognized early in his career an attraction for the media and satellite television production so he went on to establish ART, which he owned.

He played a key role in promoting Saudi Arabia as a regional economic force and Jeddah as a leading international port and hub for global commerce.

Sheikh Saleh was also known as “‘the father of contemporary Islamic finance” and was bestowed upon Malaysia’s Royal Award for Islamic Finance in November 2010.

He was actively involved in efforts to expand trade among member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries.

In February 2019, Bloomberg agency revealed that Sheikh Saleh’s fortune decreased by $700 million and fell to $3 billion, and he gave up 60 percent of the shares of MBC Media group.

In addition to being chairman and member of many boards within his companies and sister companies, he was a member of the boards of trustees and directors in many social, charitable and cultural societies and foundations such as the Arab Thought Foundation, King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Gifted, the Board of Trustees of the Egyptian Zakat Foundation, the International Academy for info & Media Sciences, Arab Academy for Financial & Banking and the Islamic Solidarity fund.

Sheikh Saleh Kamel was also the president of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Council of Saudi Chambers and Federation of GCC Chambers. He also founded Dar Okaz Printing and Publishing and is a shareholder in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

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