Howard Marks in Saudi Arabia

The really nice thing about money and its pursuit is that even inveterate enemies can turn their nuclear tipped projectiles into rose petals at the feet of their otherwise erstwhile adversary.

This morning I was reminded of that incongruous scene a number of years ago when Sandy Weill, the ex-Chairman and CEO of Citigroup was secretly and then not so secretly in the middle of the desert, in Saudi Arabia, with camels in the background, meeting with Prince Al-Waleed.

Now, in Saudi Arabia, everyone is a prince, but Al-Waleed is a Prince among Princes and known for his investing acumen.

That acumen has often gone against the conventional wisdom.

At the time, Citigroup was in tremendous crisis, along with the rest of the financial sector, which in turned dragged the market down to its “666” level on the S&P 500 by March 2009.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Prince Al-Waleed refer to Weill as “my good friend, Sandy Weil,” and cap that off by putting his arm around the Jewish New York banker.

Did I mention that Weill was Jewish?

Did I mention that Prince Al-Waleed had a very, very significant stake in Citigroup?

So this week, fast forward some 8 years and I saw this photo on CNBC this morning:

There was Howard Marks.

Founder of Oaktree Capital. An investor with his own acumen, A Nice Jewish boy from Ozone Park, Queens and most importantly, boyhood friend of Dr. Jack Dillenberg.

But Marks wasn’t the only prominent figure there having originally hailed from the 12 Tribes slightly to the north of Saudi Arabia. There were lots of familiar names and for those who believe in stereotyping, there was plenty to confirm those beliefs, but then again, those people in the habit of stereotyping don’t really need proof of anything.

Anyway, Howard Marks, along with others was there for the “Future Investment Initiative 2017.”

What is the “Future Investment Initiative 2017?”

Who better to explain than the ad campaign people for those seeking outside investment?

The Future Investment Initiative 2017 is “An initiative of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, FII is a pioneering new global investment event that will connect the world’s most powerful investors, business leaders, thought leaders and public officials with the path-breaking innovations that are defining the future.”

The Saudis want money to get them beyond their oil reserves and who better to get if from than their friends?

When I say “friends,” I mean “enemies,” but when money is at stake, those lines can become blurred.

That may be the actual point.

Ask Jack Dillenberg. Continue reading “Howard Marks in Saudi Arabia”