Saudi Olayan Group : A Glorious Past, A Brilliant Future
The Saudi Olayan family owns a great history that entails its establishment and appearance, and a futuristic present that paves the way to an unprecedented boom in its activities across the World.
The group started in the spice trade, about a hundred years ago, then turned to foodstuffs.
Over the years, the group suffered through difficult circumstances until one of its sons, an orphan of parents, was able to take steady steps in the business world to turn from a low-paid employee to one of the wealthy people in the Kingdom with a balance of more than fifty companies, united by one name, “The Olayan International Group”.
The family’s investments are concentrated in industry, retail trade, investment banking and finance, real estate services, hospital leasing, and others.
The family has managed to occupy a prominent position among merchant families, not only in the Kingdom but also in the neighboring countries.
Throughout its acquisitions, it expanded to Europe and the United States, amassing a large number of real estate assets, making it a truly global company.
Circulating figures indicate that the family’s wealth, which amounted to $12.9 billion last year, declined in 2019 by $400 million, to settle at $12.5 billion. The Olayan family owns many international brands and has a large stake in MetLife, First Boston, and American International Group.
The roots of the Al-Olayan family date back to the northern regions of the Kingdom, and they settled in Diriyah hundreds of years ago.
The founder has raised an orphan.
The actual founder of the commercial family, Suleiman Al-Olayan, was born in the city of Unaizah in Al-Qassim in 1918. His life was not easy. His father worked in the spice trade and took Medina as his center.
However, he was forced to return to Unayzah, so he began trading commodities in Al-Ahsa and Bahrain.
The father sent his eldest son, Muhammad, to Bahrain to work. However, in the aftermath of his father’s death, Muhammad had to return to take his four-year-old brother Suleimhim.
In Bahrain, Suleiman studied at the American School, Al-Hidaya School, Al-Khalifia School, and then Al-Jaafaria. But he did not complete his secondary education and left school to start working early.
Road to Oil
The beginnings of the actual path to the rise of the family are linked to the entry of the young Suleiman Al-Olayan into the labor market, specifically in 1936, when he started working at the age of 18 in the Bahrain Petroleum Company Bapco, in the position of observer for measuring oil quantities, in the Awali field, and his salary was very low.
He decided to return to Saudi Arabia, and there he worked for Aramco, which was then known as the California Arabian Standard Oil Company.
Beginning in the engines department, he moved to the position of supervising car and truck parts warehouses, encouraging and assigning responsibility for importing what the company needs from abroad. And here was the turning point, as his position gave him extensive knowledge of the methods of trade and strengthened his English.
The birth of the Olayan Group
After experience working in oil companies, the founder of the family, Suleiman Al-Olayan, decided to establish his own business. The Olayan Group was founded in 1947.
In 1954, Suleiman Al-Olayan launched a general trading company, and developed its activity with the oil boom, to include restaurants, food industries, paper, and plastics, as well as insurance, which developed into the largest insurance and reinsurance company in the region.
The group has several partnerships with international companies, most notably Coca-Cola, Burger King, and Bechtel.
Moreover, Olayan invests in Credit Suisse, where it raised its stake to 3.6% of registered shares and 3.4% of mandatory convertible bonds.
Activity inside the Kingdom
The Olayan family owns a lot of investments, through the Saudi Olayan Investment Company Limited. This company owns 16.95% of SABB’s capital of SAR 15 billion, while it holds 21.73% of the capital of Alawwal Bank, which has a capital of SAR 11.4 billion.
The Olayan family is among the wealthiest families in the world, as it currently manages investments worth billions of riyals, inside and outside the Kingdom, in a company “Olayan Investment”.
Olayan group in points
The founder of the family, Suleiman Al-Olayan, was raised as an orphan and began working as an employee in an oil company for a very low wage.
• The family mortgaged its house to be able to establish a “General Contracting Company” and win the first tender from “Aramco”, then the contracting proceeded.
• The Olayan Group was established in 1947, and it started a land transportation company working in the framework of constructing pipelines for transporting oil.
• Participated in establishing the first electricity generation company in Saudi Arabia, and the first Saudi company to market propane gas.
• Today, the Olayan family owns many international brands and has a large stake in MetLife, First Boston, and American International Group.
• The circulating figures indicate that the family’s wealth reached $12.9 billion last year.
• The most significant thing the founder taught his children was to avoid extravagance and not judge others according to appearances.
Lubna Al-Olayan topped Forbes’ list of the most powerful businesswomen in the Arab world and was the first Saudi woman to reach the position of CEO and Bank President.