It is shortly before 4am and the interview with Prince Alwaleed is finally over. Or so it seems.
During six hours of verbal sparring, from dinner at his magnificent Kingdom Resort to a 15km bicycle ride in the pitch black desert 100km from Riyadh, no subject has been untouched and no stone left unturned.
His journey from double bankruptcy to billionaire businessman: “There is no mountain top for me. The moment you reach the top you go downhill.” His devotion to global philanthropy: “I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference.” His views on the depth of the 9/11 wounds: “The damage done was tremendous... the wounds are so deep, they will take 30 years to heal.” His view about the building of a mosque at Ground Zero: “Let me set the record clear — we did not finance this thing and I am against putting the mosque in that particular place.” And his eagerness to do battle with all who come before him: “The more they fight me, the tougher I become. I love it.”
There is nothing more to be said… is there? As I start to pack my briefcase, he moves five yards to the left to begin a long overdue meeting with a group of tribal leaders. Then, suddenly, he turns back towards me.
“There’s something else you should know,” he says.
And then it comes, mildly at first, building to a thunder: “I hate inefficiency, I just dislike it. One should equal 30 people, otherwise just go somewhere else, you don’t have to be with me, go! My house has to be efficient. My chef has to be efficient. Everyone, EVERYONE has to be efficient!! Those in key positions, they are not just efficient, they are hyper efficient. Otherwise they can’t work with me. It’s about productivity and how much you perform.”
He pauses for a moment, then continues: “I work more than anybody in my company and they know that, by the way. So nobody can come to me and say, ‘heh prince, you know I’m overloaded’. Because if I work more than you, and I pay your salary, why can’t you work like me? Huh??! I work day and night, so nobody can ever tell me, ‘oh I’m tired I can’t work anymore.’”
He has clearly demanded efficiency to good effect in the past 30 years. Today, Kingdom Holding Company, of which he owns 95%, covers 39 investments in seven sectors.