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Saudi Arabian family business profile: SAUDI BINLADIN GROUP

Once listed as the largest family business in the Middle East, construction giant Saudi Binladin Group has recently faced unprecedented difficulties after an accident in Mecca that cost 107 lives.

Once listed as the largest family business in the Middle East, construction giant Saudi Binladin Group has recently faced unprecedented difficulties after an accident in Mecca that cost 107 lives. Now able to bid for government contracts again after being blacklisted, it has major projects on the go such as the construction of the world’s tallest building, Jeddah Tower.

FAMILY

Born into a modest background in Yemen in 1908, Mohammed bin Ladin (also written bin Laden) founded, in 1931, what became the Saudi Binladin Group. His strong relationship with the country’s then-ruler, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was crucial to the company’s growth, with a string of government contracts awarded. Bin Ladin had multiple wives and 56 children, among them the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin, before dying in a plane crash in 1967. His eldest son, Salem bin Ladin, became company chairman before he too died in a plane crash, in 1988 aged just 42. Another son, Bakr bin Ladin, who owns nearly a quarter of the Jeddah-headquartered company, is the incumbent chairman, and other sons sit on the board.

X-FACTOR

Among the Saudi Binladin Group’s latest projects is the construction of what will be the world’s tallest building, Jeddah Tower, in the company’s home city. This skyscraper, costing more than $1 billion, is a far cry from the company’s early growth linked to Saudi Arabia’s role as a centre of Islam. In 1950 the group secured a contract to extend the mosque in Medina, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, often described as Islam’s second holiest place. Four years later, the company was chosen to extend Islam’s holiest place, Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Close to the country’s ruling family, the Bin Ladins won multiple contracts linked to the country’s oil-boom development and the group remains an important government contractor. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Binladin Group is regrouping after one of the most turbulent periods in its history. In September 2015, one of its cranes collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 107 people. The authorities banned the company from bidding for new government contracts, froze current projects, and stopped company officials from travelling. Amid reports of debts totalling billions of dollars, earlier this year it laid off 77,000 foreign workers, some of whom had gone on the rampage after not being paid for months. The company has been trying to secure more non-government work and, in May, the Saudi authorities lifted the ban on bidding for government work, offering the company the chance to rebuild its damaged reputation and its balance sheet.


 

SAUDI BINLADIN GROUP IN NUMBERS

FOUNDED 1931

GENERATION Second

REVENUES A figure of $30 billion has been widely reported, but is often disputed

EMPLOYEES 200,000


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