Business

Saudi prince sues Forbes over his rank on billionaires list

Saudi ArabiaPeriodicalsMedia IndustryNewspaper and MagazineDonald TrumpLiliane BettencourtCitigroup Incorporated

A Saudi Arabian billionaire prince has sued Forbes magazine in London, accusing the publication of underestimating his wealth in its highly scrutinized annual list of the world's richest people.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal claims the magazine was "deliberately biased" when ranking him at a lowly 26th place in its 2013 tally of the super wealthy, according to court documents cited by the United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper.

The magazine pegged his net worth at $20 billion. The prince claims it is closer to $30 billion. The difference? About $9.6 billion, the Guardian reported.

The alleged inaccuracy has the business mogul, who holds a stake in Twitter, reportedly fuming. In addition to the Forbes publisher, Bin Talal also filed suit against its editor and two of its reporters, the Guardian reported.

Forbes may have angered the prince further with an article examining the way he calculates his net worth, deeming it "an alternate reality" driven in part by his need for public validation.

"For the past few years former Alwaleed executives have been telling me that the prince, while indeed one of the richest men in the world, systematically exaggerates his net worth by several billion dollars," Forbes reporter Kerry Dolan wrote. "This led Forbes to a deeper examination of his wealth, and a stark conclusion: The value that the prince puts on his holdings at times feels like an alternate reality."

For example, the value of his publicly traded company Kingdom Holding seemed to rise and fall based on factors "more tied to the Forbes billionaires list than fundamentals," Dolan wrote.

The magazine said Forbes has been the target of "a quarter-century of intermittent lobbying, cajoling and threatening" when it comes to Bin Talal's ranking on the billionaires list.

"Of the 1,426 billionaires on our list," Dolan wrote, "not one – not even the vainglorious Donald Trump – goes to greater measure to try to affect his or her ranking."

To persuade Forbes to use his own calculations when tabulating its annual list, the prince has offered up his private banker in Switzerland and flown his company's chief financial officer to New York from Saudi Arabia, the magazine said.

A net worth of $30 billion would push bin Talal to ninth place, tied with Liliane Bettencourt and her family, who hold a large stake in cosmetics giant L'Oreal.

Through Kingdom Holding, the prince is an investor in swanky real estate such as the Savoy Hotel in London and is a stakeholder in multinational corporations such as Citigroup and News Corp.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Saudi ArabiaPeriodicalsMedia IndustryNewspaper and MagazineDonald TrumpLiliane BettencourtCitigroup Incorporated
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