SHEIKH KHALID BIN MAHFOUZ
"Do for this life as if you'll live forever, do for the afterlife as if you'll die tomorrow"
Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz died of heart failure on 16 August after suffering from cardiac problems for many years. He was born in Jeddah on the 30th day of Jumada al-thany 1368 in the Hijri calendar (29 April1949), the second son of Sheikh Salem Bin Mahfouz and his wife, Aisha Mohammed Kaki.
Sheikh Khalid's father arrived in Mecca at the age of six in 1912, after travelling on foot from Yemen. Though he had no formal education, Sheikh Salem was a man of renowned integrity with a gift for finance, which enabled him to create the first independent Saudi bank, the National Commercial Bank ("NCB"), in 1953.
Following his father's wishes, Sheikh Khalid began his career at NCB while he was still a student. He received his primary and secondary education at the Al Falah School in Jeddah, and during his school holidays he would accompany his father to the bank, where he worked with the cashiers and loan officers. After completing his education in 1970, Sheikh Khalid, already familiar with all aspects of the bank, joined NCB full-time and began to deal with his father's clients throughout Jeddah, where he soon established a reputation as a quick-witted banker with a keen intelligence. He showed particular aptitude for international investment and finance. After learning the banking business both in Saudi Arabia and the United States, he became a Deputy General Manager, responsible for investments and international business including correspondent banking relationships.
Sheikh Khalid withdrew from NCB in 1992 to address matters relating to BCCI (discussed below), but he returned to NCB as General Manager (CEO) in 1996, after the BCCI matter had been finally settled. Sheikh Khalid stepped down from his position at NCB in 1999 because of increasingly difficult health problems. At the same time, he and his family sold their majority interest in NCB to the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
Sheikh Khalid contributed substantially to the growth and success of NCB, today the largest bank and biggest financial asset manager in the Arab world with total assets of over SR221 bn. Early on in the mid-1980's, he spotted the need for major investment in information technology to enable NCB to implement practices comparable to the best major multi-national banks and pave the way for today's multi-electronic banking channels. That same clarity of vision persuaded him to develop Islamic banking products to serve what he correctly predicted was a pent-up domestic and international demand for such products. NCB is now the leading provider of such services in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to his banking activities, Sheikh Khalid engaged in a variety of substantial personal investments both inside the Kingdom and in several parts of the world. His energetic and entrepreneurial spirit created or developed a number of significant, ongoing enterprises in many industries, including banking, healthcare, telecommunications, mining, oil and gas exploration, transportation services, port development and management, property development, basic materials and others.
Though he had made many highly successful investments, Sheikh Khalid became known internationally for an ill fated investment in BCCI. During the spring and summer of 1986, Sheikh Khalid took a 20% equity stake and substantial debt interests in BCCI, then a fast-growing international bank that had originated in the Middle East in 1972 with investment funds from Bank of America. Four years later, BCCI would collapse, leading to legal actions against Sheikh Khalid, who was, by that time, not only a leading officer of NCB but among the most prominent investors in the world. Sheikh Khalid served as an outside (non-executive) director of BCCI from 1986 to 1989 but attended few board meetings and had no knowledge of unlawful activities at BCCI that later came to light. Sheikh Khalid sold his equity interest in BCCI in 1988 by exercising a contractual right to sell his shares back to BCCI, though he maintained his debt interests. When BCCI folded in 1990, Sheikh Khalid and an associate were indicted in New York State on grounds that depositors and regulators were misled by BCCI's failure to disclose publicly that Sheikh Khalid had withdrawn his equity investment in BCCI. Sheikh Khalid, who had lost hundreds of millions of dollars in debt interests in the BCCI bankruptcy, vigorously disputed that he knew of BCCI's problems or that his conduct was in any way wrongful.
In 1993, the criminal case against him was dropped, as was a civil investigation by the Federal Reserve Bank into the illegal acquisition of First American Bank by BCCI. In settling all pending matters, Sheikh Khalid and the other defendant offered and agreed to pay approximately US $225 million to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, on the understanding that the funds would be used primarily by BCCI's court appointed liquidators to compensate the thousands of depositors and creditors who had suffered billions in losses from the BCCI collapse. There was no admission of guilt to any wrongdoing and none of the money paid by Sheikh Khalid was characterized as either a fine or a penalty. The remarkably generous settlement offered by Sheikh Khalid, which was unrelated to any plausible legal risk, has been widely misunderstood as an admission of complicity in BCCI's wrongdoing.
In fact, Sheikh Khalid was known by his close associates for his remarkable generosity throughout his life. Sheikh Khalid's charity touched innumerable welfare organizations, needy families and destitute individuals. He personally financed the construction of a significant number of mosques and hospitals in the Kingdom. He did this humbly, avoiding publicity and refusing to comment on any questions about his charitable activities.
Following the tragic events of 9/11, a number of wild and baseless allegations were made that Sheikh Khalid and other prominent members of Saudi society provided funding for terrorism through their charitable contributions. Though he was a very private, mild-mannered man who had never instigated litigation in western courts, Sheikh Khalid was determined to confront and refute these false and exceedingly defamatory accusations, if necessary through courts of law, which impugned critical charitable contributions to the deprived and defenceless. Since the beginning of 2003, Sheikh Khalid and his family received many apologies from journalists and authors who had been misled by the sensational allegations circulated by the internet. In a few instances, legal action was required, leading to six defamation lawsuits in London. In every instance, Sheikh Khalid was completely vindicated by English Courts. In fact, no evidence was ever produced to support the claims made against him. By successfully refuting the misinformation that had been published about him and others, Sheikh Khalid earned the respect and admiration of people throughout the world who believe in due process of law and understand the important work performed by Islamic charities. It gave him particular satisfaction to be vindicated by the distinguished courts of England, a country that he had made a second home with a wide circle of friends and business relationships.
Apart from his work as a banker, investor and philanthropist, Sheikh Khalid was an accomplished songwriter and poet under the pseudonym Anaser. His Arabic poems have been performed by many Saudi and other Arab singers. He was also a lover of sport, especially football, and was an active honorary member and supporter of the popular Saudi football club, Al Ittihad.
He is survived by his wife and three children, who were at his bedside when he died.