x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai World replaces Nakheel boss

Four new members are appointed to the property company's board.

Sultan bin Sulayem has been replaced as chairman of Nakheel as the property developer owned by Dubai World restructures US$10.5 billion (Dh38.56bn) of debt. Four new members have also been named to the property company's board as part of a plan to revive its property developments. Mr bin Sulayem, who has headed Nakheel since its formation in 2001 and is also the chairman of Dubai World, has been replaced by Ali Rashid Ahmad Lootah, the vice chairman of Mashreqbank, according to the Dubai Government's media office.

Khalid Mohammed Salem Bakheet, Khalil Issa Ahmed Awad, Adel Khalifa al Shair and Ibrahim Hussein al Fardan have also been named as board members. It did not name Chris O'Donnell, the chief executive of Nakheel, as a board member, although a spokeswoman for the company said he remained in his job. The media office said the new board would "immediately start working on enhancing Nakheel's abilities to implement the proposed restructuring plan" and that it would "work on a number of main projects, which will be chosen according to the company's future priorities, and will ensure it continues to meet its various obligations".

It said that the move would help Nakheel "regain its position and role as an important component of the national economic system" and that the board would also "work on monitoring and acting on all possible opportunities that may open up new horizons for the company". The restructuring plan for Nakheel, which has been at the centre of Dubai World's debt problems, includes $1.5bn of new cash, which will be used to finish some of its projects. A further $8bn has been set aside for the developer to fund operations and settle liabilities.

Mr bin Sulayem was the mastermind of Nakheel's ambitious offshore island projects, including the Palm artificial islands, the Waterfront and The World, a collection of more than 250 artificial islands. Nakheel spent billions of dollars reclaiming waterfront developments as it tried to capitalise on Dubai's property boom, which ended abruptly in the third quarter of 2008. Mr bin Sulayem also initiated plans for The Universe, another collection of man-made islands, and Tall Tower, which, as part of the Nakheel Harbour and Tall Tower development, was planned to eclipse the Burj Khalifa as the tallest tower in the world.

All of these projects have been held up by the company's financial troubles. Nakheel has also shed thousands of jobs since the onset of the financial crisis. agiuffrida@thenational.ae