SEDCO – Saudi Economic and Development Company – was founded in 1976 by the late Sheikh Salem Bin Mahfouz, growing from a small trading and construction contracting business in Jeddah to become one of Saudi Arabia’s largest conglomerates and a global force in Shariah-compliant private wealth management.
Sheikh Salem’s life story is a remarkable tale of vision and commitment that enabled him to overcome an impoverished childhood to become founder and chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), the first Saudi bank, which was established in 1953 and grew to become the Middle East’s largest financial institution. When Sheikh Salem died in 1994, his estate was inherited by his widow, five sons, and seven daughters. While his son Khalid decided to concentrate his assets in the National Commercial Bank, the rest of the family focused on SEDCO as their investment and wealth-management vehicle.
In 1996 they formed the first SEDCO Board of Directors consisting of the four brothers – Mohammed, Saleh, Abdelelah, and Ahmed – as well as four members from the local and international business leadership.
Meantime, the scale and diversity of SEDCO’s operations grew apace, focusing on long-term investments and trade opportunities. After the death of Sheikh Salem, the Company’s first Executive Committee was formed, followed by reorganization as a holding company and the establishment of the first Board of Directors to include non-family members. With Sheikh Mohammed as Chairman and Sheikhs Saleh, Abdelelah and Ahmed as Board members, the Company set up new strategies for growth and progress.
Sheikh Mohammed led the transformation of SEDCO into a pioneering world-wide corporation, diversifying steadily into virtually every asset class available to private and institutional investors, in the process becoming a major wealth management organization working on behalf of the Bin Mahfouz family.
Milestones on SEDCO’s expansion path included the release of its first product for third-party investors outside the company – the Al-Fanar Fund – in collaboration with Permal Asset Management (1998); launch of the world’s first global Islamic timber fund in partnership with UBS (2000); securing the Applebee’s franchise for Saudi Arabia (2001); acquiring 50 percent of Al Nahdi Pharmacies (2004); and launching the world’s first Islamic hedge fund, in partnership with Permal Asset Management (2003).
In 2006, SEDCO acquired 30 percent of Ejada, a leading IT services provider in Saudi Arabia; and 25 percent of Dar Al Fouad, a tertiary care hospital in Egypt.
Major property developments during the 1980s and early 1990s include the Al Mahmal Center in Jeddah, still considered a vibrant component of the city’s central business district; Metro West in Orlando, Florida; and the JPMorgan Chase building in Houston, Texas, which is the state’s highest skyscraper.
SEDCO’s first phase of corporate restructuring and diversification was rooted in HR development, best practice work mechanisms, and outcome-based performance. The philosophy extended to the creation of the management hierarchy within the Company, attracting highly skillful asset management and investment personnel, and the establishment of dedicated operating groups for Financial Investment, Direct Investment, and Real Estate.
By separating the ownership and management of the Company, a highly effective and globally specific team was created, contributing significantly to SEDCO’s relentless progress to higher levels of success. In 2004, Shuaib Ahmed was appointed as the first CEO from outside the owning family, and SEDCO’s resolute commitment to corporate governance is part of his enduring legacy. He was succeeded in 2007 by Ahmed Banaja and in 2010 Dr. Adnan Soufi became CEO for the next three-year term, with Anees Moumina taking over from the beginning of 2013.
In 2010, SEDCO Holding was established as the parent company, responsible for all wholly owned subsidiaries and overseeing partnership holdings in associate companies, in adherence to a sophisticated new governance approach based on best international practice.
SEDCO Capital was created from the Financial Investment Group after being licensed by the Capital Market Authority (CMA) to offer a range of asset management services to third-party investors. The Real Estate Group was reorganized into SEDCO Development, Elaf Group and Eimar Arabia now known as Intimaa. Boards were appointed for all the Group companies – each taking a principal role in the added-value process and reflecting SEDCO’s response to market changes.
In 2012, SEDCO Holding started a corporate social responsibility program that quickly turned into a national youth empowerment drive. Riyali, a financial literacy scheme for the Saudi youth, was meant to reach 50,000 youth in 5 years with advice on how to save, budget and invest for a successful future. Riyali gained enormous traction in the community to the point that initial progress markers were easily exceeded. In 2014, more ambitious targets were set for Riyali, expanding the program’s remit to reach 2 million youth by 2020.
The Group kept crossing milestones year after year. In 2013, SEDCO Holding’s Elaf Group opened the highly successful Elaf Bakkah Hotel in Makkah. The very next year, the Elaf Al Salam Hotel opened its doors in the holy city. In 2014, SEDCO Holding’s commitment to its human talent also won it the accolade of being one of Saudi Arabia’s foremost places to work in. The company topped all family businesses in the country by ranking 11th on the Best 15 Places to Work list.
More than a century after the founder’s birth, Sheikh Salem’s three sons – Saleh, Abdelelah and Ahmed – continue to strategically lead the company. Together with non-family directors and professional management teams, they represent a formidable assembly of talent and global experience. Together, they are committed to leading SEDCO to new levels of achievement. SEDCO Holding Group is now a truly global company – one that has made the transition to becoming a leading, well-governed, world-class international investment holding group.