Obituary: Shaikh Ahmad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Shaikh Ahmad was considered to be the one of the world’s youngest business executives and ranked 27th on the 2009 Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people

Shaikh Ahmad
Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Zayed attends a wedding ceremony on December 26, 2008.

Abu Dhabi: Born in 1969 in Al Ain, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the younger brother of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
 
Shaikh Ahmad graduated from the United Arab Emirates University and then joined Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in 1994. 

He was the incumbent managing director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, which was established in 1976.

He was one of the key driving forces behind Adia’s main deals, and the authority hit the headlines when it acquired a 4.9% stake (estimated to be worth $7.5 billion) in Citigroup. Adia is believed to have assets worth between $500-$700 billion, but Shaikh Ahmad or the authority never confirmed Adia’s asset size. 

Shaikh Ahmad had always avoided the limelight and gave very rare statements to the media.

Among the first decisions he took as a managing director was increasing the budget for training and cooperation programs with internationally-renowned academic institutions such as Harvard University.

A number of people who closely worked with him for Adia said: "For us, Shaikh Ahmad was very humble and unpretentious, highly accurate and realistic in organising and planning."

"He taught us that orderliness is above all personal considerations and nobody shall override it", they added, stressing that "the changes which he made throughout his tenure at Adia were essential and focused on human resources, therefore programs for education and development of qualified people and encouraging national resources were full."

Shaikh Ahmad's engagements and work in economics did not kept him away from engaging in humanitarian and social work.

Ever since he was appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Zayed Foundation for Charity and Humanitarian Works in 1996, he directly followed up on the Foundation's work.

Throughout his career, Shaikh Ahmad made significant and practical successes. He is well known of engaging in charity work and volunteering for several humanitarian organisations and charities in the UAE and overseas.

He was also known for his humanitarian initiatives and passion for sports and falconry.

Shaikh Ahmad is survived by his son, Zayed, who was born in 2008.

Work with Adia

Ever since joining ADIA, Shaikh Ahmad worked in different divisions, enabling him to familiarise himself with various investments and portfolios.
 
In 1997, Shaikh Ahmad was appointed Managing Director of the Adia. In 2005, he was appointed as member of the Supreme Petroleum Council.

He ranked 27th on the 2009 Forbes list of the world's most powerful people who have a significant role in the economy of the Middle East. He was also the chairman of the Board of Trustee of Zayed Fund for Charitable and Humanitarian Works.

In an interview published in German business daily Handelsblatt, Shaikh Ahmad said, "We prefer to be seen simply as a globally-diversified investment institution, with the difference being that our owner is the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi."

"Adia's sole mission, which has not changed in over 30 years, is to secure and maintain the current and future welfare of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This ensures that our investing strategy stays focused on long-term trends rather than the ups and downs of individual cycles," he added.

Shaikh Ahmad was considered to be the one of the world’s youngest business executives and ranked 27th on the 2009 Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people.

“The rumours that circulate occasionally about Adia planning takeover bids or looking to buy controlling stakes in one company or another are invariably a case of mistaken identity,” he said in the interview published in German business daily Handelsblatt.

Earlier in March, Adia released its first annual review and said it invests between 60 per cent and 85 per cent of its holdings in North America and Europe and between 25 per cent and 45 per cent in Asia and emerging markets.

Between 46 per cent and 65 per cent of Adia assets are held in developed equities, emerging market equities and, to a lesser extent, in small cap equities, it said.

Outlining the global economic situation, Shaikh Ahmad observed in the report: “World equity markets, already down by more than 40 per cent in dollar terms [in 2008], fell a further 23 per cent to their lows in March 2009,” adding that “a significant recovery in economic activity and substantial gains in world equity markets” had taken place during the following months.

“Even so, considerable uncertainty remains about the outlook for 2010. Most pressing is the sustainability of the economic recovery,” he said. Established in 1976, Adia’s rate of return averaged an annual eight percent over the past 30 years and 6.5 per cent per annum during the past 20 years, the report said.

Shaikh Ahmad accomplished great achievements through the positions that he served in. He was known for his love for charitable work, volunteering in numerous charitable organizations in and outside of the UAE.

(With inputs from Gulf News Archives and WAM)

Timeline

1996: Shaikh Ahmad Bin Zayed is appointed the Chairman of Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Zayed Charity Foundation.

24/08/1997: Shaikh Ahmad is appointed the Under Secretary of Ministry of Finance and Industry by President His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

21/07/2003: Shaikh Ahmad gives instructions to the administration department of Zayed Charity Foundation to establish a Chair of Ecology at the Arab Gulf University in Bahrain

15/09/2009: Shaikh Ahmad pays the debts of 221 prisoners and they are released as per a Presidential clemency during the month of Ramadan

11/01/2010: Shaikh Ahmad says in an interview to German business daily Handelsblatt that the US and Europe account for 60-80 per cent of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s investment portfolio. 

(Compiled by Gulf News Archives)

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