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 a lack of schooling and 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 Kahlid decided to concentrate his assets in the National Commercial Bank, the rest of the family concentrated their assets in SEDCO. 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, including non-family members. With Sheikh Mohammed as Chairman and Sheikhs Saleh, Abdelelah and Ahmed as members of the Board, the Company set up new strategies for growth and progress, based on Shariah-compliance, corporate governance and restructuring.
Sheikh Mohammad led the transformation of SEDCO into a pioneering world 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.
Typical milestones on SEDCO’s expansion path include 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 (2003); 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; 10 percent of Green Packet, a global research and development company; 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 outcomes-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.
In 2004, Shuaib Ahmed was appointed as the first CEO from outside the owning family, and this resolute commitment to corporate governance is part of his enduring legacy. He was succeeded in 2007 by Ahmed Banaja who initiated the processes leading to the most recent restructuring strategy resulting in the establishment of SEDCO Holding.
In 2010, Dr Adnan Soufi – previously Managing Director of SEDCO Financial Investment Group – became CEO, assigned to lead the transformation process and appoint boards of directors for the various group companies.
SEDCO Holding was established as the overall parent company, responsible for all wholly-owned subsidiaries and for overseeing partnership holdings in associate companies. In 2010 SEDCO Capital was created from the Financial Investment Group after being licensed by the Capital Market Authority (CMA) to offer a range of wealth and asset management services to third-party investors.
The Real Estate Group was reorganized into SEDCO Development, Elaf Group, and Eimar Arabia. Boards were appointed for the various companies – each taking a principal role in the added-value process and reflecting the Company’s response to market changes.
Today, SEDCO has successfully bridged the old and the new, building on a heritage foundation of vision, hard work, and integrity to create a multi-national and multi-faceted group that has rightfully earned its place as a business entity of global status.
More than a century after the founder’s birth, Sheikh Salem’s three surviving sons are still directors: Saleh, Abdelelah, and Ahmed. They are joined by non-family directors and executives who represent a formidable assembly of talent and global experience.
Together, they are committed to leading SEDCO to new levels of achievement, sharing a vision to be the largest global entrepreneur in terms of Shariah-compliant wealth management.