14 June 2013

"I'm Rich and You Know It"

Forbes' Billionaires
Some people will say, "If you have it, flaunt it." However, there’s nothing in those words that say you have to bitch about it.

In the case of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, it seems that he is not contented to let everyone know that he is filthy rich. He also wants everyone to know that he is far "richer than what you think."

This was the opinion of everyone I talked to after the prince sued Forbes magazine for libel in a British court, alleging its valuation of his wealth at US$ 20 billion was short of the mark by US$ 9.6 billion. My take on this: so what? Did it make the world far worse than it is right now if the correct estimate was off by a couple of billions of dollars?

The prince, a grandson of Saudi Arabia's founder and nephew of King Abdullah, had continuously attacked the U.S. magazine's ranking of world billionaires as flawed and biased against Middle Eastern businesses after he was ranked number 26 in this year's list. But what if Forbes showed the court that their estimates for all billionaires were off by exactly the same amount? Hmmm ... will the 'bias' argument still hold water?

An official at the High Court in London confirmed that Prince Alwaleed had filed a defamation suit against Forbes, its editor Randall Lane, and two of its journalists on 30 April 2013. Details of the claim were not immediately available, although reports had it that it involves some compensatory amount.

Through his Kingdom Holding Company, Prince Alwaleed owns large stakes in Citigroup, News Corp and Apple Inc, among other companies. He is also owner or part-owner of luxury hotels including the Plaza in New York, the Savoy in London and the George V in Paris. If the Prince wants somebody to accurately estimate his networth, why not give everyone access to the books of all these companies so that we can settle it here and now.

If Forbes made a mistake, then fine. Say sorry and increase the Prince’s value to US$ 40 billion so that we can get on with our lives as if we care. But if those books say that there was a large amount of unpaid tax, then let’s have the proper authorities file a more relevant case and use the sequestered amount to make people's lives better.