The financial woes of a Saudi prince forced to list his palatial London residence for a staggering GBP250 million (USD302 million) seem far removed from the cost-of-living crisis gripping the UK. The sale of The Holme in Regents Park, nominally owned by Sheikh Abdullah bin Sultan (but in reality the crown jewel in the property portfolio of his father Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan), has shed valuable light on the opaque internal dynamics within the House of Saud.

The distressed sale of Saudi-owned assets ranging from superyachts to mansions has been estimated at USD1 billion and are the ongoing ripple effects of a major realignment which began in earnest in 2017.

  • On 4 November 2017, hundreds of senior princes and industrialists, who had for decades controlled commercial and political decision-making in Saudi Arabia, were arrested at dawn and detained at the Ritz Carlton.
  • The grandsons of the Kingdom's founder were among a list of four hundred detainees which included Prince Waleed bin Talal, whose Kingdom Holdings group owns stakes in Twitter, Citigroup and the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
  • The detainees were key interlocutors who had set the kingdom's narrative regionally and internationally. The arrests signalled a consolidation of power and influence around Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and side-lined the country's old guard which had amassed vast fortunes since the discovery of oil in the kingdom.

To understand the glaring excesses which defined the expenditure of the hundreds of Saudi princes, with London as their favoured playground, it is worth revisiting the early days of the House of Saud. The discovery of oil transformed the kingdom from a tribal confederation forged on a Wahhabist doctrine to a powerhouse fuelled by the global demand for oil.

The sons of Abdulaziz bin Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, carved out the kingdom's economy amongst themselves with key sectors being outsourced to associates and political allies. This created separate and at times competing spheres of influence pitting extended members of the Al Saud family against each other.

The sons of former King Abdullah and Sheikh Sultan bin Abdulaziz, whose assets in London and New York are being publicly sold, seem to have particularly fallen foul of the Crown Prince. With their movement severely curtailed and many confined to Jeddah and Riyadh these Princes have little choice but to off-load their assets to raise much needed liquidity.


With the Crown Prince forging full speed ahead with efforts to redefine the Kingdom's identity, many other distressed sales of Saudi-owned assets are on the horizon. A few may struggle. In 2021, the US placed sanctions against 76 Saudi individuals in response to the killing of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. This, consequent concerns about source of funds, as well as the ongoing tensions, complicate the task for representation in London.

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