Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire with significant stakes in Citigroup and Twitter, was arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities as part of an anti-corruption purge in the kingdom.
Alwaleed was among 11 princes and 38 current or former senior officials that were arrested on orders from a newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a senior Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Alwaleed was picked up from his desert camp, the official said. Authorities didn’t disclose the evidence that prompted the arrests.
Ranked the world’s 50th richest person with a net worth of about $19 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Alwaleed is the founder of Kingdom Holding, a Riyadh-based investment company that has holdings in real estate, hotels and stocks around the world. Kingdom Holding shares fell as much as 9.9 percent, the most since 2014, at the open in Riyadh.
In one of his most visible local investments, Alwaleed in September bought a 16.2 percent stake in Banque Saudi Fransi from Credit Agricole SA in a deal valued at $1.54 billion. Kingdom Holding, which is now the bank’s single largest shareholder, bought the stake at a discount after the French lender struggled to find an international buyer. Saudi Fransi shares fell as much as 2.8 percent on the Saudi stock exchange on Sunday.
The detention of Alwaleed, a nephew of King Salman, is surprising. The prince has, more than once, expressed his public support to the monarch and the crown prince. When Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016, Alwaleed said he was halting plans to invest in the Islamic Republic.
A spokesman for Kingdom didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
Alwaleed has long ranked among Citigroup’s largest and most outspoken shareholders, encouraging the lender to rebuild its Saudi Arabian business more than a decade after it lost a key banking license there. His Kingdom Holding has held the stock since 1991, according to its website, a span that included a 98 percent plunge during the financial crisis. Citigroup shares have since climbed more than sevenfold.
The investment firm has also tended significant stakes in Apple and EBay for well over a decade. While the website doesn’t specify the size of such holdings, Alwaleed’s investments are sometimes detailed in regulatory filings. At the end of last year, for example, he exercised voting rights for about 35 million shares of Twitter, most of which he owned directly, according to a February regulatory filing. As of Friday, a stake that size had a $695 million market value -- or almost 5 percent of the microblogging website’s total.
Alwaleed also holds stakes in Beijing-based online retailed JD.com, the Four Seasons hotel chain and Accor Hotels. Kingdom Holding is also backing a project to build the world’s tallest tower in Jeddah. Alwaleed’s wealth has declined by more than $700 million so far this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.