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THE AGENDA Liquid Lunch


Industrial scion turned entrepreneur Omar Alghanim tells Edwin Smith about his family firm, a new venture and the romance of internal combustion engines


Alghanim, now 48, joined the company – which spans everything from the automotive industry to banking and consumer electronics, as well as oil and gas – in 2002. Having become CEO in 2005, he left in 2019. He’s now working on a major project for the 5,000-member Family Business Network (FBN), drawing on his experience of life inside a family firm. He sits on the board of what is the largest international organisation of its kind and chairs its Gulf chapter, but he has other interests and projects too. He remains a regional board member of Injaz Al-Arab, an NGO that equips young people in the Arab world with entrepreneurial and financial skills, and has worked with 3.7 million students since Alghanim


If you pioneer


deals and don’t look to exit, then you


have a USP to the seller – that you want to partner with them over the long term


OMAR ALGHANIM ARRIVES at Defune, a Japanese restaurant in Marylebone, with his two young sons and their governess in tow. The boys have been promised teppanyaki, so they head downstairs while Alghanim and I take a seat at the main sushi bar. ‘Can we have omakase?’, he asks, referring to the Japanese practice of allowing the chef to serve what they see fit. The chef, whom he seems to know, says something I can’t hear, to which Alghanim barks an approving: ‘Hai!’ before turning to me: ‘I’m a big Japanophile.’ In his profile image on LinkedIn


Alghanim is pictured in the traditional Arab thawb. Today he wears a brown linen suit and open-necked shirt. On one wrist, a vintage Rolex. On the other, a Fitbit-like bracelet. In much of the Middle East, the Alghanim name is famous. This is largely thanks to the family business, Alghanim Industries, which took off under his grandfather in 1930s Kuwait and grew further in the 1970s under the control of his father Kutayba – a feature of Forbes billionaire lists and recently ranked number 41 in Gulf Business magazine’s ‘100 Most Powerful Arabs’.


co-founded it in 2002. Almost as soon as we’ve settled in, and without prompting, he confides that, despite holding an MBA from Harvard Business School, he feels he no longer understands the capital markets. It’s because of the amount of leverage in the system, he says. It makes valuing companies too difficult. ‘You’re either a wolf or a sheep,’ he says. ‘Wolves eating sheep is alpha.’ So… is he a wolf? ‘I am a wolf, in some very narrow


areas.’ Not in the realm of equities or bonds, but when it comes to ‘operating businesses, and knowing how to operate a broad set of businesses. I think I can do that better than most.’ This brings us on to his newly formed


impact investment fund, Yakoa. Based in London and named after the men in various generations of his family (his


RUSS TUDOR


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