Image Credit: File

Berlin: Klaus Kleinfeld, who ran Siemens AG and Arconic Inc, will take a new role advising Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince on his reform plans, leaving his current position as chief executive officer of the kingdom’s Neom mega-project.

File photo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman shakes hands with Klaus Kleinfeld after Kleinfeld was appointed as NEOM's Chief Executive Officer, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Reuters

Kleinfeld will “take over wider responsibilities to enhance the economic, technological and financial development” of the kingdom as an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, according to a statement to Bloomberg News.

Neom CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, who was the CEO of Siemens AG and Arconic Inc, will take a new role advising Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.  File

The change is effective August 1 and Kleinfeld will retain a role as a board member at Neom, a city being built on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast.

Nadhmi Al Nasr, who led the development of Neom Bay, the project’s initial stage, will take over from Kleinfeld, according to the statement.

Kleinfeld was named CEO in October when the project was announced with much fanfare in Riyadh. The appointment marked a dramatic return after he was ousted as the head of New York-based Arconic for sending a letter to activist investor Elliott Management Corp during a proxy fight. In 2007, he resigned as CEO of Siemens in the wake of a bribery probe into the company’s business.

Prince Mohammad unveiled Neom last year, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia, as he seeks to make the kingdom less oil-dependent. Mega-projects like Neom — a city that officials claim will have more robots than humans — figure prominently in his economic and social transformation plan, dubbed Vision 2030.

Kleinfeld’s role

Kleinfeld will “contribute in various functions” to this plan, according to the statement.

The government says the Neom project will be backed by more than $500 billion from its sovereign wealth fund, as well as from local and international investors.

The Public Investment Fund, as the sovereign fund is known, is behind several large real estate developments in Saudi Arabia, including an entertainment city on the edge of Riyadh and another tourism project on the Red Sea.

Some of these projects have struggled to take off, including King Abdullah Economic City north of Jeddah and King Abdullah Financial District, a $10-billion community in Riyadh that remains largely empty.

In the statement, Neom said that Al Nasr, the new CEO, has worked on the strategy and development of Neom Bay as a member of the founding board and is also interim president of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

A former manager at Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known as Aramco, he will be responsible for “developing the business plans for the core economic sectors” of the new city, according to the statement.

NEOM at a glance

1. The project called ‘NEOM’ will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework”.

2. The plan includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the zone to Egypt and the rest of Africa.

3. Some 25,900sqkm urban area will stretch into Jordan and Egypt, creating “the world’s first independent special zone extending over three countries.”

4. The project will focus on nine industries: energy and water, mobility, biotech, food, technological and digital sciences, advanced manufacturing, media and entertainment.