Scott Ragsdale, the chairman of Naseba, is preparing to row across the Atlantic next November
Week in the Life: Dubai businessman gets ready to put his oars in
Scott Ragsdale, 46, is the chairman of Naseba, which organises events and facilitates deals and investments, with offices in Monaco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, India, Shanghai and Chicago. An American, he emigrated in 1995, living in Japan and France before moving to Dubai a decade ago with his French wife Sophie Le Ray (the chief executive of Naseba), stepdaughter Marie, 23, who works as a marketing executive at Naseba, and daughter Giovanna, 13. He has run more than 20 marathons, climbed St Kilimanjaro, swum the English Channel and completed the seven-day Saharan Marathon des Sables. Here he tells The National about his week.
I am preparing to row across the Atlantic, from Portugal to St Kitts and Nevis, next November, so I row six days a week. I am up at 3.15am then run before driving from Dubailand to the Palm Jumeirah to row for three hours.
I am in the middle of a 40-day water fast - no food - so am not training as hard: I run for 20 minutes then walk for 40. I hope to cross the Atlantic in less than 100 days. Only a handful of Americans have ever done this and I want to mentally challenge myself.
I am in our Knowledge Villa office by 11am and like to drink two litres of water first and read the papers. Sundays are quieter, as most of my work is with Asia, Europe and the US. I have a call with Naseba’s project director in Saudi.
We are partnering with Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh to put together a programme on women in leadership, which I really pushed for. I have two daughters and believe they should receive the same opportunities as men. I also meet the finance team for two hours to review our business plan. I work until 7pm then drive home. I have dinner with my family, when not fasting, and am asleep by 8.30pm.
This is a day off from rowing so, although I still get up at 3.15am and run, I read a book on fasting then drive my daughter to school at 7am. She’s very scared of being late! My wife takes a separate car, so it’s a nice time for Giovanna to update me. For the rest of the week, mornings are focused on Asia and Pakistan while, in the afternoons, I’m often dealing with our Chicago office, as we are potentially opening another office in America.
I have lots of phone calls - my job is almost all on the phone or travelling. I’m not a big meeting person. My focus is on relationships with our investor clients and creating something at Naseba that attracts the highest level of investor, like our chief financial officers’ forum - I am essentially a big cheerleader for the company.
I have a cigar in the car as I drive to my rowing club - and one again in the evening when I drive home. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day; my reflection time. Today I have the first of two French lessons a week from 9-11am.
I speak Japanese and French but, although I lived there for 17 years, I cannot debate as fluidly in French as I can in English. At work, I have a conversation with Sophie, as CEO, about increasing the commission for employees’ success fees. I want us to give more, to make sure the team is motivated, excited and sees the big, big picture.
The reason I’m rowing to St Kitts is because I am a big investor in a resort project there and Naseba is selling a citizenship programme for St Kitts and Nevis, my main focus at present. A little over a year ago, several clients asked for help getting new passports so they could travel more easily - Pakistanis and Iraqis, for instance. It has become big enough that we are now opening an office in Pakistan.
For citizenship, applicants need to invest at least US$400,000 into the country but they will also accept lower donations to the government thanks to our relationships, around $280,000.
This is my second day off rowing this week, but I have French again. I volunteer at church for three hours from 5pm each Thursday, setting up for the next day’s services - the auditorium at Hartland School, where Gatekeepers Church meets, seats 500 and has three services. It’s always full. I’m the chairman of Naseba but very much into volunteering - this is very important to my life. I organise meetings and business dinners around set-up - I don’t want to miss it.
I’m a pretty regimented guy and even wake up the same time on the weekends. It helps me be consistent if I do the same thing over and over. I’m at church from 10am, I go to the office in the afternoon and head back to church to help with the ‘take-down’ at 5pm.
We also often fly home to the south of France for the weekend, to La Turbie, on the Monaco border. If so, we’ll fly out on Friday morning, arriving back in Dubai at midnight on Sunday. I met Sophie when I moved to the south of France and I ended up hiring her, then we started Naseba together - but we’re no ‘mom and pop’ shop; we don’t get involved in each other’s jobs at all.
If I’m not fasting I love to go out for dinner, preferably with my wife, but she is not as keen as I am on going out so it may be with a friend instead. I’m not a big drinker, I just like good food, conversation and a cigar.