An SWF Loses It’s Sex Appeal

by Marion Maneker

Perhaps it’s a sign of the shifting economic agenda that this profile of Kahldoon al-Mubarak, Abu Dhabi’s 32-year-old financial fixer, got shoved inside the paper last Saturday next to a story on Abu Dhabi’s joint investment in Barclay’s which had been announced the day before.

When Mubadala, the Emirate’s development fund took a pre-IPO stake in Carlyle, the private equity firm, that was front-page news. As Landon Thomas’s story points out, the announcement of a joint venture between GE and Mubadala, got Mubarak some face time with Jeff Immelt on CNBC too.

But what could have been a flashy, juicy profile of the young man who had risen from obscurity to the center of the planet’s economic power was very easy to miss. Not that Carlyle’ David Rubenstein and Immelt didn’t cooperate. Here’s Thomas on the source of Mubarak’s clout:

“While Mr. Mubarak’s smooth Western ways and his acumen have impressed investors, his close relationship with the crown prince, the younger half-brother of Abu Dhabi’s ruler and his expected successor, is behind Mr. Mubarak’s increasing prominence. He heads an elite advisory group called the executive affairs authority that advises the crown prince, who is considered the leading voice for cautiously modernizing the emirate, on a range of economic, financial, social and communications issues.”

Here’s Rubenstein diplomatically confirming the pecking order: “If you have his leadership skills and you can speak for the crown prince and you have money, that is a very effective combination,” said David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group.”

Maybe the real issue is that the Times couldn’t justify devoting the real estate to a deal for a British bank, even if they just bought Lehman Brothers investment banking assets. On the other hand, given the endless coverage of sovereign wealth funds in the first half of this year–not to mention the beating most of them took in the first round of capital raising by the big banks–it is refreshing that the Times chose to underplay the story. We are sure hear from the SWFs again in 2009. In times of deflation, those with cash are more than kings.  And as asset prices stabilize and they look for a bottom from which they can begin to invest again.

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