Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan will become chairman of Abu Dhabi’s $790 billion sovereign wealth fund, consolidating his power beyond roles that include the United Arab Emirates’ national security adviser and head of the country’s largest bank.
In a reshuffle announced by the Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs on Thursday, Sheikh Tahnoon will become chairman of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, while the emirate’s $272 billion Mubadala Investment Co. will be lead by his brother Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Sheikh Tahnoon’s appointment puts him at the helm of one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. The move comes as Abu Dhabi — a city that’s among the few globally to manage over $1 trillion in sovereign wealth capital — is seeking to extend its influence on the world stage.
Sheikh Tahnoon — a black belt in jiu-jitsu — is already one of Abu Dhabi’s most influential figures as chairman of its smaller wealth fund ADQ, the country’s biggest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC and private investment firm Royal Group. He also oversees the sprawling business empire of International Holding Co. whose spectacular market value surge has drawn scrutiny and failed to entice international investors, some of whom privately expressed concerns about a lack of transparency.
“What’s interesting is how Sheikh Tahnoon now leads the most important private investment vehicle IHC, along with the most important state investment vehicle,” said Karen Young, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “How IHC and ADQ are also now joined in ventures together means there is little difference in private or state entities across the investment landscape from Abu Dhabi.”
Sheikh Tahnoon will take the helm of ADIA just as the fund is pivoting away from traditional passive investment strategies and leaning more toward alternative asset classes such as private equity and infrastructure, that generate better investment returns.
Due to its sheer size, ADIA’s choices can have an impact around the world. It’s already one of the biggest investors in US real estate, and its recent deals include stakes in German railcars, North American energy and Indonesia’s biggest internet firm.
As well as his business roles, Sheikh Tahnoon is also recognized as an important political emissary. Investments in countries such as Turkey and Egypt often support efforts by his brother Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s president known as MBZ, to extend the nation’s clout.
“Certainly the investment environment in the Middle East, and in truth globally, is more geopolitical than it was a year plus ago,” said Ryan Bohl, senior Middle East and North Africa analyst a risk intelligence consultancy Rane Network. “There may also be an element of wanting people like Tahnoon with foreign policy backgrounds in these positions as the UAE deploys them strategically as it has in Turkey and Egypt.”
ADIA’s previous chairman, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, passed away last year after which he was succeeded as the UAE ruler by his brother.
Sheikh Tahnoon and MBZ are part of a group of six brothers, known as the Bani Fatima. They’re all sons of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan from his third, and most prominent, wife.
--With assistance from Dinesh Nair and Ben Bartenstein.
(Updates with analyst comment in ninth paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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