Mit dem FORBES-NEWSLETTER bekommen sie regelmässig die spannendsten Artikel sowie Eventankündigungen direkt in Ihr E-mail-Postfach geliefert.
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber's business empire spans from luxury hotels, real estate all the way to the petroleum industry and agriculture. The entrepreneur, who’s a citizen of both Saudi Arabia and Austria, is keeping busy—some legal disputes included. But now, Al Jaber, whose fortune Forbes most recently estimated at $7 billion, wants to “return” and focus on his portfolio of luxury hotels—also and especially in Vienna.
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber calls many places “home”. Apart from his hometown Jeddah, Al Jaber also resides in Paris, London, Portugal and Vienna. But especially the Austrian capital carries a special meaning for Al Jaber—it is not for nothing that the entrepreneur possesses the Austrian citizenship apart from being a Saudi-Arabian citizen.
The 64-year-old's business network is just as diverse as his residences: Al Jaber's investments range from luxury hotels and food companies to oil activities and include brands such as the Austrian ski manufacturer Kneissl. According to the company website, the company’s portfolio is worth over $9 billion. According to the company's own statements, its profit was recently in the nine-figure range. In 2013, Forbes estimated Al Jaber's net worth at $7 billion. The portfolio of the MBI Group includes the construction company Jadawel International, which has built a number of mini cities and luxury villas throughout Saudi Arabia. For nearly 30 years, Al Jaber has operated JJW Hotels & Resorts, a luxury hotel and golf course company with hotels, resorts and outlets worldwide; the locations are in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In addition to hotels, resorts and golf courses, cruise ships are also on offer.
But Al Jaber is also active in the food trade. AJWA Group operates ports in the Middle East, a number of processing facilities, extensive distribution networks and some of the largest rice, food, oil and vegetable brands in the MENA region. Last but not least, Al Jaber also manages and owns the oil and gas company Continentoil—founded in 1994, the group provides infrastructure, production and manufacturing solutions for the hydrocarbon industry and solutions along the oil and gas value chain.
Al Jaber also acts as an investor in start-ups—and as a philanthropist. In addition to his entrepreneurial activities, the Austro-Saudi has been active with the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, which is based in the United Kingdom (UK), for over 25 years. Among other things, the foundation finances scholarships for young people to give them access to education.
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber's fortune was recently estimated at seven billion US dollars.
With Austria, the businessman has developed a close relationship in his over two decades of doing business in the country. The entrepreneur first entered the spotlight in 2002 when he bought the Grand Hotel on Vienna's Ringstrasse, which at the time belonged to the Japanese airline Nippon Airways. This was followed by the acquisition of hotel The Ring, also located on Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse. Four years later, in 2006, Al Jaber invested a further €70 million to buy the Palais Corso, home to the Vienna Ringstrassen Galleries, from the building’s previous owner, Italian insurance company Generali.
In 2007, Al Jaber, who calls himself an “Austrian entrepreneur with Saudi Arabian roots,” received the Austrian citizenship. A little later, in 2008, a decision followed that would keep Al Jaber occupied for many years: Al Jaber wanted to join the then-struggling airline Austrian Airlines (AUA). The entrepreneur wanted to ultimately hold around 20% of shares.
At that time, AUA reported a profit of around €3.3 million—a report later claimed that the airline should have reported a loss of €205 million. After poor quarterly figures, Al Jaber ultimately withdrew from the purchase agreement because he felt deceived by the company’s board. This resulted in a legal dispute that would last for a total of 15 years. Ultimately, the German Lufthansa took over the airline at the end of 2008, and the state of Austria guaranteed the debt. The court case was not decided until 2023, when the Vienna Commercial Court ruled that Al Jaber’s withdrawal was legal.
But Al Jaber didn't let the back and forth deter him—and in 2008, he found what he was looking for with traditional Austrian ski brand Kneissl. He took over 60% of the company shares. After Kneissl went bankrupt, Al Jaber deposited a total of €1.98 million for the insolvency quota in 2012 and has owned 100% of the shares in the company ever since.
Additionally, Al Jaber is closely linked to the private university Modul am Kahlenberg. The university, which specializes in tourism and hospitality, was co-founded by Al Jaber and supported financially for many years. The entrepreneur invested ten percent of the construction sum in 2007 and supported the organization with sponsorship money. The Vienna state government awarded him the Golden Medal of Honor for services to the State of Vienna. Austria will once again become more of an entrepreneur's focus again in the future —Al Jaber feels particularly vindicated by the court ruling in the AUA trial.
In addition to his entrepreneurial projects, the businessman wants to devote his time in the country primarily to supporting educational institutions as well as students with scholarships. But Al Jaber is not only highly active domestically, but also internationally: in Portugal, his company has invested around €500 million in the Algarve region over the last three decades. His properties include the Hotel Dona Filipa in Vale do Lobo, the San Lorenzo golf course in Quinta do Lago, the Hotel Penina and the three associated golf courses. Since 2015, Al Jaber's son Mohsen MBI Al Jaber has been managing the family business in Portugal.
What sets Al Jaber apart around the world, however, are his philanthropic activities. These are run through the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, which he founded himself and which is heavily involved in the education sector.
In this role, Al Jaber supports the London Middle East Institute of the SOAS University in London (School of Oriental and African Studies) as a “founding patron” and donor. There, he also founded the MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies. The foundation also sponsors the International Association for the Study of Arabia (formerly: British Foundation for the Study of Arabia) in Great Britain. In addition to education, Al Jaber is also very concerned about building bridges between Arab and European culture. Under the motto “Connecting Cultures”, Al Jaber supports the exchange of cultures, for example between Austria and the Arab world. In 2008, the entrepreneur was selected as “Person of the Year 2008” by the Vienna Trialog Institute. Laudator Karl Blecha, former Austrian Interior Minister and President of the Society for Austrian-Arab Relations, emphasized Al Jaber's role as an "interreligious bridge builder". The foundation also works closely with UNESCO to strengthen the Euro-Arab dialogue. In 2004, Al Jaber was appointed by UNESCO as a representative for “education, human rights, tolerance and culture to build peace and democracy”.
“The Sheikh” also published a book (the title is given as an honorary title in Saudi Arabia) —titled “Yes, the Arabs can too”. It was first published in Arabic in 2009, and then in English, German and French in 2013. The book offers an Arab perspective on the region's economic and social changes.
The three children—Al Jaber has two daughters and a son—that Al Jaber has with his wife are also active in the family business. And although the numbers would suggest otherwise, Al Jaber lives a rather modest life. Although he has valuable houses in which he lives in various cities, he says he bought his more than 20-year-old watch at an airport for €150 and still uses it every day.
With the tailwind of the AUA ruling, which found him in the right, as well as his continuing love for Vienna, Al Jaber now wants to perform more in Austria again. His focus should clearly be on an already existing core area of his activities: luxury hotels. In addition to the Grand Hotel, which Al Jaber still holds today, other properties are to be added.
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber is a Saudi-Austrian entrepreneur. His field of activity extends from luxury hotels and real estate to oil and food retail.