That’s Rich: Saudi Prince and Forbes in Spat Over Billionaire List

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal isn’t happy with Forbes for ranking him No. 26 on its annual billionaires’ list and estimating his wealth at $20 billion. He says he’s worth more.

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Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal holds a press conference in Kuwait City on April 24, 2011. The Prince claims that Forbes underestimated his wealth on its annual billionaires' list.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia has publicly severed ties with Forbes magazine and its annual billionaires’ list after the magazine estimated his worth at $20 billion. The prince insists he’s worth a lot more, according to the Independent.

The nephew of the current Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, is currently ranked No. 26 on Forbes’ 27th annual billionaires’ list.  But the Prince, whose Kingdom Holding Co. has investments in everything from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to Citigroup, put his own wealth at $29.6 billion – nearly $10 billion higher than Forbes’ estimate, the Independent reported.

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If Prince Alwaleed is correct, the figure would catapult him into the ranks of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world, ahead of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault.

Unimpressed with his Forbes ranking, the Prince will instead work with a rival rich list: the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.  The Bloomberg list, which started last year, ranks the Prince as the world’s 16th-richest person with an estimated wealth of $28 billion.

The Saudi royal’s office said in a statement: “Prince Alwaleed has taken this step as he felt he could no longer participate in a process which resulted in the use of incorrect data and seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions.”

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Shadi Sanbar, the finance chief of Kingdom Holdings, added that the Prince has “worked very openly with the Forbes team over the years and have on multiple occasions pointed out problems with their methodology that need correction,” the Telegraph reported.

However, Forbes isn’t budging.  The magazine published a piece on its website on Wednesday entitled “Prince Alwaleed And The Curious Case of Kingdom Holding Stock,” recounting how Sanbar attacked Forbes reporters and its methodology before the annual list was released.  The article also mentioned how it had been investigating Prince Alwaleed’s finances for several years.

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It appears the argument is over Forbe’s refusal to use share values as listed by Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, Tadawul. According to the Guardian, Forbes accepts the valuations of other emerging markets like the Mexican stock exchange.  Prince Alwaleed’s investment company, Kingdom Holding, said in a statement: “The application of differing standards of proof for different individuals resulting in an arbitrary set of standards that seems biased against the Middle East.”

A Forbes spokeswoman said the Prince would continue to be included in the list in the future, even if he chooses not to participate, CNN Money reported.

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