x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tributes for Abdullah Kanoo

Late business leader is remembered as a philanthropist.

Such was Abdullah Ali Kanoo's standing in the Arab world that when he died on Sunday in Manama, aged 83, royalty and government dignitaries travelled to pay tribute. Among those paying respects to his family were Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the UAE's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the king and prime minister of Bahrain.

Mr Kanoo was not only one of the most prominent figures in the Arab business community, with interests in Gulf countries including the UAE, but was also a noted philanthropist. "It's a tribute to him as an individual, no doubt," said his nephew Mohammed Kanoo. "It's humbling to see such respect and such love. "He was a man that commanded respect from anyone and everyone that met him." Mr Kanoo is survived by his wife, two sons, three daughters and four grandchildren. A Saudi national, Mr Kanoo, who is understood to have been born in Manama in 1927, rose to the position of chairman and chief executive of the Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo Group, a family-owned conglomerate with operations throughout the Middle East. Under Mr Kanoo's stewardship, the group diversified its business to include shipping, logistics, travel and a variety of industrial projects and expanded throughout Saudi Arabia.

"They've really contributed so much to the nation," said Jasim Husain, a member of Bahrain's Council of Representatives. "They're quite innovative, and leaders in many areas." Farouk Almoayyed, the chairman of Almoayyed Group, a Bahraini conglomerate, described Mr Kanoo as "really the dynamo of the family". "He was really instrumental in expanding the business in Saudi Arabia from the 1950s. "He was also a very nice man, a kind man and a benevolent man," Mr Almoayyed said. "He was always very generous and gracious and welcoming as a person."

Mr Kanoo is said to have given 15 million Bahraini dinars (Dh146.14m) from his personal fortune to charitable causes over the years. "Philanthropy is an important factor for our family and something that we always take into consideration in whatever we do," Mohammed Kanoo said. "Abdullah Kanoo emphasised that at every step of the way. "He was most insistent that we always focus on how much we can give and how much we can do."

Mr Husain said the Kanoo family would now face a challenge in further developing the business, speculating that it may wish to relinquish control through an initial public offering. Mr Kanoo had been "adamant" that the business remain in family hands, Mr Almoayyed said. Abdullah Kanoo's cousins Mubarak and Abdul Aziz are seen as the most likely candidates from his generation to take the helm of the business.

ghunter@thenational.ae