Saudi Arabia has decided to acquire 60 per cent of MBC Group’s shares, a few days after the group’s founder and chairman of its Board of Directors Waleed Al Ibrahim was released.
Sources stated that Saudi officials will transfer 60 percent of the group’s ownership to the state and leave the remaining percentage to Al Ibrahim, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
This action is part of Saudi Arabia’s recent moves to seize assets of businessmen who have been involved in the corruption investigations, and have been held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel since November, 2017.
Waleed Al Ibrahim and his three brothers Khalid, Majid and Abdul Aziz were among the detainees at the Ritz-Carlton, and were released in late January.
On January 26, the Financial Times newspaper revealed that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, has been extorting the owner of MBC media group, Waleed Al Ibrahim, to give up his share in the group in exchange for releasing him.
On the 29th of the same month, a senior official in the media group confirmed that Waleed Al Ibrahim would retain his share of it at 40%. He pointed out that Al Ibrahim renewed the allegiance to the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.
However, estimations confirm that members of Al Ibrahim family owned 50% of the group, while Saleh Kamel, the businessman who was also arrested during the campaign on corruption, owns 10%.
Officials said dozens of suspects had agreed to waive assets worth more than $ 100 billion to the state through financial settlements to the charges against them.
When Waleed Al Ibrahim was released, a senior executive at MBC said the investigations proved his innocence of any wrongdoings.
In its January 26 report, the Financial Times reported what it said was a scenario for what happened between Mohammad bin Salman and the head of the group, Waleed Al Ibrahim. It stressed that “Bin Salman has long been interested in MBC.
The newspaper added that people close to the crown prince have held discussions with Al Ibrahim to take over his share for almost two years. However, the group’s owner objected to the amount they offered him ($ 2.5 billion), and insisted on a higher price ($ 3/3.5 billion).
The newspaper stated that “Al Ibrahim boarded his jet to Riyadh, days before the start of the arrest campaign, following the invitation of Mohammad bin Salman, to complete the talks on the acquisition deal.”
It continued: “When the meeting was canceled, Al Ibrahim decided to return back to Dubai, where the headquarters of his media group is located, but officials at Riyadh airport told him the flight has been cancelled and stopped his plane.”
It went on by saying: “On the evening of the same day, the name of Al Ibrahim was spread on social media websites; the Saudis speculated that he was one of the detainees on charges of corruption. In the morning of the following day, his meeting with Mohammad bin Salman was reaffirmed. He was rather arrested instead of discussing the acquisition deal.”
Observers considered that MBC was a clear goal for the young Saudi crown prince, who seeks to “ensure positive media coverage of his ambitious plans.” They pointed out that the rise of bin Salman to power was accompanied by further restrictions on media outlets in the country and less tolerance against the opponents, according to the Financial Times.
About two weeks ago, Saudi blogger Mujtahidd revealed that MBC would be part of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group owned by Bin Salman.
At the end of December, 2017, Al-Quds Al-Arabi quoted sources as saying that MBC and Saudi Arabian channel Al Arabiya had become fully managed by Saudi journalist Turki Aldakhil and his assistant, Nasser bin Hazzam, who both work under Bin Salman.
The news came following the announcement of 6.6 billion Saudi riyals ($ 1.8 billion) deal between Saudi Telecom Company and the General Sport Authority, under which the company will be granted exclusive rights to broadcast Saudi football matches for 10 years.
Broadcasting rights were owned by MBC, which signed in July 2014 a 4.1 billion-riyal deal to own them for 10 years.
One of the exporters said the broadcasting rights of matches have been granted – without bidding – to the Saudi Telecom Company 70 per cent of which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.