ADIA Succession

Ashby Monk

Three days of official mourning began yesterday in the UAE for Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who died in a glider accident in Morocco last week. He was a remarkable man; Forbes ranked him 27th among the world’s most powerful people. He will be sorely missed.

And he will be extremely difficult to replace, which has set global media abuzz with rumors about who will succeed him at the helm of ADIA. One article said that “a power struggle for control of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund looms.” Another said this “is likely to precipitate a power struggle among several of his 17 surviving brothers as they maneuver to replace him.”

I’m no expert on UAE’s internal politics, so I’m relying on others here. An article in Time has a scenario (provided by Christopher M. Davidson) worth sharing:

“With Sheik Ahmed out of the picture, the crown prince and his brothers are likely to move on ADIA. ‘Then they will control virtually all of Abu Dhabi’s economy,’ he says. But there are elements within the family that may oppose them, including the President, who may want to place one of his two sons in the role. Sheik Ahmed had four full brothers, and they are also likely to try and keep the position among themselves. His eldest full brother, Sheik Saif, wields significant influence as the powerful Interior Minister. Despite the tensions, the dynastic tussle is likely to be veiled.

Issues of succession in conservative gulf kingdoms are customarily dealt with behind firmly closed doors, and Abu Dhabi — more traditional than its showy neighbor and U.A.E. constituent, Dubai — is hypersensitive about its image and extremely unlikely to let any split within its royal family become public.”

Other news agencies report that a succession plan is already in place and is in process. In fact, BusinessWeek has two possible candidates for the job:

  • “One candidate to succeed him may be Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the owner of English soccer club Manchester City and another half-brother of Sheikh Khalifa, who’s on the board of ADIA and also serves as minister for presidential affairs.
  • Another is Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the son of the U.A.E. president, who is also on the ADIA board of directors. He was born in 1974 and serves as the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Finance Department.”

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This website is a project of Professor Gordon L. Clark and Dr. Ashby Monk of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Their research on sovereign wealth funds is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and The Rotman International Centre for Pension Management.

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