A cultural history of the most profitable company in the world, Saudi Aramco, and the story behind the family that ruthlessly maneuvered to control this multi-trillion dollar enterprise.
The Saudi Royal family and Aramco leadership are, and almost always have been, motivated by ambitions of long-term strength and profit. They use Islamic laws, Wahhabi ideology, gender discrimination, and public beheadings to maintain stability and their own power. Underneath the thobes and abayas and behind the religious fanaticism and illiberalism lies a most sophisticated and ruthless enterprise. Today, that enterprise is poised to pull off the biggest IPO in history.
Over more than a century, fed by ambition and oil wealth, al Saud has come from nothing to rule as absolute monarchs, a contrast with the world around them and modernity itself. The story starts with Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdul Aziz, a lonely refugee embarking on a daring gambit to reconquer his family's ancestral homethe mud-walled city of Riyadh. It takes readers almost to present day, when the multinational family business has made al Saud the wealthiest family in the world and on the cusp of a new transformation.
Now al Saud and its family business, Aramco, are embarking on their most ambitious move: taking the company public.
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About the Author
Ellen R. Wald, PhD, is a widely cited consultant on geopolitics and the global energy industry. She earned her doctorate in history at Boston University and an AB in history, Near Eastern studies, and creative writing at Princeton University. She teaches Middle East history and policy and has appeared on TV and radio on three continents.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Refugee Becomes King ix
Part I 1
1 "A Devil of a Time" 3
2 The Americans in King IBN Saud's Court 24
3 Actual Accrued Benefit 49
4 An Arabian Dawn 78
Part II 101
5 He Met His Duty 103
6 Putting the House in Order 120
7 Wahhabism, Women, Westerners, and Riyals 146
Part III 177
8 "Masters of Our Own Commodity" 179
9 "Nationalization Was Not the Thing At All" 202
10 "Barrels of Oil and Gigawatts of Power" 225
Epilogue: For Their Sons 253
Afterword: "The Hen That Lays Gulden Eggs" 267
Note on Sources 297