One of the world’s richest men is in dispute with Forbes, the publisher of an annual list of the world’s biggest billionaires, over exactly how rich he is.
Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, the Saudi investor whose interests range from the Hotel George V in Paris to a stake in Twitter, announced on Monday that he had “severed ties” with the Forbes billionaires list, accusing it of a “flawed” valuation method that displayed a bias against middle eastern investors.
“Prince al-Waleed has issued a press release in response to fact-checking questions from Forbes,” the publisher countered: “Forbes has been investigating the prince’s finances for several years, and will detail its findings in a feature story in the magazine, which will be released online [on Wednesday].”
Forbes, owned by Steve Forbes, ranks the prince as the world’s 26th richest individual, estimating in its 2013 list that his net worth had risen $2-billion (U.S.) in the past year to $20-billion.
The statement from Kingdom Holding Company, the diversified investment group in which the prince holds a 95 per cent stake, made no mention of the prince’s own estimate of his riches, but a spokesperson for Fortune said he had estimated his wealth at $29.6-billion.
That would put him just inside Forbes’ top 10, above Bernard Arnault of LVMH and the heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton.
Kingdom said it would continue to work with the compilers of the Bloomberg Billionaires index, launched last year as a rival to Forbes’ long-established list, using the market data for which Bloomberg is best known.
By Bloomberg’s calculation, which Kingdom said the prince considered a more accurate measurement and which includes figures provided by Kingdom, his wealth stood at $28-billion on Monday evening and he was ranked as the world’s 16th wealthiest person.
Kingdom said Forbes refused to accept valuations on Riyadh’s Tadawul exchange, where Kingdom is quoted. By contrast, Forbes accepts equity valuations in other emerging markets such as Mexico, its statement added, in an apparent reference to Carlos Slim, ranked by Forbes and Bloomberg as the world’s richest individual.
Kingdom also objected to “arbitrary” discounts applied to holdings not backed up by brokerage statements, such as its stakes in Twitter and 360Buy, the Chinese online shopping company. Shadi Sanbar, Kingdom’s chief financial officer, said its officials had questioned Forbes’ methodology in previous years, but their protests had fallen “on deaf ears”.
He added: “KHC puts a premium on tracking the true value of our investments and it is contrary to both our practice and nature to assist in the publication of financial information we know to be false and inaccurate.”
Forbes declined to give further details of its planned report. Kingdom said the prince’s private office had retained legal counsel.