x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The names behind the bailout

The uncle of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has been taking an increasingly central role in the emirate's business affairs and has, aides say, been "extremely busy" with the Dubai World negotiations.

The uncle of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has been taking an increasingly central role in the emirate's business affairs and has, aides say, been "extremely busy" with the Dubai World negotiations. His position as the chairman of the Supreme Fiscal Committee, and his status as one of his nephew's key advisers, means his advice will be crucial to the outcome.

At 51 years old, Sheikh Ahmed is known as the business-friendly international face of Dubai. As the head of the fast-growing Emirates Airline he is as comfortable in western boardrooms as he is in the Ruler's majlis, and he led a delegation of Dubai executives selected to calm western financial media after the shock of Dubai World's "standstill" announcement last November. A key element of Sheikh Ahmed's job now will be to reassure the heads of international banking groups, with whom he is well acquainted, that Dubai wants to maintain a mutually profitable relationship in the years ahead.

The chairman of Dubai World was the inspiration behind the creation of Dubai's best-known "flagship" company, which put the emirate on the global business map during its rapid expansion in the years leading up to 2008. He and his family were close friends and confidants to the Al Maktoum family, the rulers of Dubai, and he began his career running the sleepy container port in Jebel Ali in the 1980s

Before Dubai World was overtaken by the fallout from the financial crisis, Mr bin Sulayem was credited with the two big initiatives that catapulted Dubai into the top slot as the region's commercial hub: establishing the Jebel Ali Port and Free Zone, and the acquisition of the global ports business P&O. He was also responsible for two artificial island projects that captured the world's imagination: Palm Jumeirah and The World archipelago.

Both underlined the emirate's reputation for daring architecture and glitzy lifestyle, but they proved too financially demanding for their developer, the Dubai World subsidiary Nakheel, when the financial crisis struck in 2008. Although Mr bin Sulayem remains chairman, most of the day-to-day operational decisions regarding the restructuring have been handled by Mr Birkett.

As the director general of the emirate's Department of Finance and the head of the Dubai Financial Support Fund (DFSF), Mr al Saleh, 51, has been intricately involved in the restructuring talks since last November. The DFSF has provided the operational finance needed to maintain the day-to-day business of those parts of Dubai World undergoing restructuring, and has so far disbursed about US$11 billion (Dh40.4bn) of the $20bn pledged by Abu Dhabi and the Federal Government to support Dubai entities in their financial need.

Mr al Saleh was closely involved in the decision not to seek "preferred creditor" status for the DFSF, which broke an impasse in the negotiations with creditors last month. As a result, the Dubai Government takes its place in the pool of unsecured creditors for the $23.5bn of liabilities. A former senior official of the Dubai Customs Department, he has worked closely on the minutiae of the restructuring with Marwan Abedin, the executive director of the DFSF.

Paul Reynolds (Rothschild) Paul Reynolds, above, 41, is the managing director of debt business in the Middle East for the investment bank Rothschild and the leader of the bank's team that is advising Dubai World. When Mr Reynolds arrived in Dubai in September 2008, the financial crisis was just beginning to hit the emirate. An early job was to advise the Dubai Government on the criteria for the DFSF.

He already had a wealth of experience on his curriculum vitae of handling indebted corporates and countries, and was no stranger to crisis. He was an executive of the British investment bank Barings when it spectacularly went bust in 1995, before moving on to the blue-blood stockbroker Cazenove and then to Rothschild. A famed early-riser, Mr Reynolds is often found at 7am having breakfast at the Dubai International Financial Centre before heading to the nearby Rothschild offices. When not helping rescue debt-ridden companies, he is a keen sailor.

Augusto Sasso (Moelis & Company) Moelis & Company was something of a surprise choice as an adviser to the Government on the Dubai World restructuring. The firm is a niche investment bank on the US scene, plying its speciality trade outside the big names of Wall Street. But Dubai had worked before with Moelis, and with Augusto Sasso, above right, 38, over the emirate's investment in MGM Mirage and the CityCenter development in Las Vegas, which had hit financing difficulties. Mr Sasso earned the trust and respect of Dubai officials for his shrewd handling of that sensitive issue.

A native of Los Angeles and a graduate in electrical engineering from UCLA, Mr Sasso worked for Credit Suisse First Boston and the investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette before joining Moelis in 2007 as the managing director. Underlining the firm's commitment to the region, Moelis has a nine-person team in Dubai.