Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who was also prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, died Wednesday during a visit to Australia. He was 62.
Sheik Maktoum, one of the world's most prominent owners and breeders of thoroughbred horses, died at the exclusive Palazzo Versace hotel on the Gold Coast, a resort area in eastern Queensland state, a police spokeswoman there said. Australian police said the emir did not die of suspicious causes. Authorities in Dubai would not give a cause of death.
In Dubai, authorities said Sheik Maktoum's funeral would be held today, and he would be buried in Bur Dubai.
The emir was succeeded by his younger brother, Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed, the defense minister of the United Arab Emirates, said Deputy Information Minister Ibrahim Al Abed. The succession was automatic under the constitution.
Sheik Maktoum, who owned Gainsborough Stud Management, arrived in Australia on Dec. 28, apparently for the Magic Millions yearling sales.
The new emir, Sheik Mohammed, is known as the intellectual architect of Dubai's building boom. He also runs Darley Stud, and his family has won nearly every major race outside the United States.
Dubai declared 40 days of mourning, with government offices shutting down for seven days beginning Wednesday. The stock exchanges in Dubai and Abu Dhabi ceased trading, and many shops and businesses closed.
Sheik Maktoum succeeded his father in October 1990 as ruler of Dubai, one of the seven Persian Gulf states that make up the United Arab Emirates.
He tended to leave the day-to-day government of Dubai to his younger brother, but he took an active interest in the Emirates' foreign policy.
He often represented the country abroad during the years when the former president, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was ailing.
When Sheik Zayed died in November 2004, Sheik Maktoum became acting president for a few hours until the new leader, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was proclaimed president.
Sheik Maktoum's foremost interest was horse racing, and he and his younger brother worked to put Dubai on the world racing map.
They founded British-based Godolphin Racing Inc., one of the world's most successful stables, and also created the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race, with a $6-million purse.
Al Abed, the deputy information minister, said the country's Supreme Council, which comprises the rulers of the seven emirates, will meet to choose a vice president to replace Sheik Maktoum.