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Does It Matter Who Heads Saudi Aramco?

In just a few short days, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih had two major powers stripped away. Saudi Arabia split off the Ministry of Industry and Minerals from the Energy Ministry, diminishing Al Falih’s responsibilities.

A few days later, Al Falih was involved in another power shift when he announced he would be stepping down as chairman of Saudi Aramco, ahead of the IPO, no less. The official reason? To avoid potential conflict of interest as Aramco seeks to list publicly.

Notably, he is being replaced at Aramco by the current head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Al Falih and MBS did not see eye to eye on the listing venue for Aramco. MBS wanted New York. But there is a wider divergence that has played out, as well. Al Falih has been one of the key figures working very subtly to subvert some of MBS’ most dangerous decisions. He is a common sense figure, and one of very few who is not a ‘yes-man’. When this all started, Al Falih was ordered to take Aramco public. Publicly, he did this very enthusiastically. Behind the scenes, he was sending reports to the Royal Court advising against the move because of low valuations. He also stood against the scheme to sell PIF shares in SABIC to Aramco - a purchase that did not make sense for Aramco, but that helped PIF gain a bit of liquidity. Again, Falih publicly agreed with the deal but attempted to subvert it behind the scenes; of course,…




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