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Sat 14 Sep 2013 10:56 AM

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Ex Nakheel exec defends first Dubai property boom

Abdulla Bin Sulayem says huge number of projects was part of 'learning curve' for developer

Ex Nakheel exec defends first Dubai property boom
Abdulla Bin Sulayem worked on the axed Palm Deira project for Nakheel.

A former executive at Dubai developer Nakheel has defended the ambitious body of projects that the company embarked on at the height of Dubai’s first property boom, saying it was a learning curve.

Abdulla Bin Sulayem, who now heads the family’s real estate and development firm Seven Tides, argued it readied Dubai for the current round of construction challenges.

“Obviously, any developer who goes through any phases goes through a learning curve,” he said in a wide-ranging interview published in Arabian Business.

“If you ask, was it too much? I would say no.”

Bin Sulayem, who is preparing to open Seven Tides’ newest venture, the Anantara Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort and Spa on Sunday, pointed to the challenges of building the project to make his case.

“Today, the amount of units, apartments, there is a lack,” he said.

“We are facing sometimes challenges in finding good accommodation. For instance, this hotel, it was a challenge to find accommodation for the staff.

“So, if you think about it, if they haven’t built a lot back then it would have been ten times more challenging to find a decent place and a decent location.”

Bin Sulayem, who became Seven Tides CEO in 2010, worked on the Palm Deira project, which was eventually axed after Nakheel began to crumble under a growing mountain of debt. Other state-funded mega-projects by Nakheel such as Palm Jebel Ali and The World, a complex of man-made islands, were also sold to investors but later stalled.

“Palm Deira was interesting, it was the most challenging project at that time in Nakheel and the biggest man-made project island in the world,” Bin Sulayem, who was director of operations at Nakheel, said in the interview.

“So, for me, going through that project was maybe an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where I can gain a lot of experience.”

Since restructuring in August 2011 under a government-led intervention, Nakheel has paid over $354 million (AED1.3bn) in loan interest and sukuk profit payments, as well as cash payments of around $3.08bn (AED11.3bn) to trade creditors and contractors.

It is also in talks regarding renegotiating the terms of its upcoming $8bn loan repayments and is in the black after posting a first-half net profit of AED1.2bn ($327m) and pursuing a new pipeline of projects, including three new hotels.

Bin Sulayem declined to comment on the criticism now leveled at Nakheel.

 “It’s a different time now, things change,” he said.

“Obviously, the global crisis had an effect in different areas around the world. But, at the end of the day, as you can see, Dubai is heading already into a very positive trend.”

Bin Sulayem also believes there is room for some of the projects which stalled during the crisis to still go ahead, but doesn’t elaborate on which ones.

“The demand is there and especially the Expo 2020,” he said of the UAE’s bid to host the prestigious event.

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Bemused 6 years ago

What about the people who lost their money to Nakheel?

Ahmed Dubai Expo 2020 6 years ago


You should ask how many countries & cities recently have gone bankrupt, especially in the west & the US. They have ruined so many innocent lives & families for decades to come let alone monetary losses.
Which city in the world can all people make money in without any one losing money?

Let us know which company/developer has made money for every one, every year through out it's life cycle?

Cyprus, Greece & Spain with others from the west are still going through embarrassing economical failures not to mention they seem to have no clarity on how to resolve their embarrassments.

justsayin 6 years ago

so Ahmed, you agree with Bemused.
Your justification is that others have done it, therefore so what?

Mark X 6 years ago

What has Nakheel learned? Doubtful & questionable!!!!!. Perhaps they have learnt how to collect money and do a Fly by Night ???????

Ahmed Dubai Expo 2020 6 years ago


No no, no who ever you are, Dubai can't compete with the idiotic economic crumblings & consistent failings in the west, Libor rate rigging scandal, Bernie Madoff & so many more shameless fraudulent atrocities we can't even make up 'just saying'! There is no comparison. Every state in the US has a tent city of people who's government has failed them with more popping up. Very shameful 'just saying'. No matter how hard Dubai would try to do the same it can't mess its self up like that even if it was paid to do so!!! 'justsayin'

Have you seen Detroit? What's their excuse?

So your justification for bashing Dubai is to be ignorant with rest of the Dubai haters, there for so what?

Such double standards from strange people when it comes to our beloved Dubai!

Mark Renton 6 years ago


I think the difference here is that no-one who is responsible for the various messes in the west is being interviewed by the press and trying to spin it as some great learning experience whilst downplaying the misery of those who suffered due to their mistakes are some kind of inconsequential collateral damage.

It could almost be Marie Antionette:

"But sir, the people lost their money on apartments in 2008"

"Then let them buy villas in 2013"

Sanjay 6 years ago

Ahmed, you have to realize some people from the West are jealous of Dubai's tremendous success; from having the tallest tower in the world, to the best Metro system, the best airline, the best airport and the best hotels. Before the West was good, now they are a crumbling mess while cities like Dubai are leading the way. There is a reason so many westerners live in Dubai.
Nakheel made mistakes, but what is the big deal? Is there a single person in this world who has not made mistakes? People should learn to move on rather than cry and moan over spilt milk. I wish all the best to Dubai in hosting Expo 2020

The Consultant 6 years ago

Actually Ahmed, Dubai and the UAE can compete very well with the west in these matters.

True, lots of governments and major organisations around the world made mistakes in the lead-up to the global financial crisis. But to try and trivialise the mess by saying that Dubai is not as bad as Greece or Detroit is to miss the point and fail to learn anything from the experience

Ahmed Dubai Expo 2020 6 years ago

So Called Consultant,

Consultants were the first to fall after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt (fastest meltdown in history), after being rated AA or so by the controversial S&P, that screams fraud, corruption & chronic greed.

Innocent people's deposit's/savings were wiped out, just like the corrupt systems in the P.I.G.S. regions (Portugal Italy Greece Spain) & Cyprus is another mess with recent deposits disappearing, adding insult to injury either Greece or Cyprus maybe both started taxing deposits/savings with whats left of their shameful system.

Fail to learn? Now that is a joke, learn from the west? Hell no you don't like Dubai, change the channel or leave. Why are you here? Go to New Orleans.

Dubai will continue its growth despite your hate.

Seeing all this hate makes me happy, it shows how far Dubai has reached, seriously what would the P.I.G.S. & Greece do if they had our summer? Likely move to Africa & eastern Europe which does not have half the western controversies.

Ahmed Dubai Expo 2020 6 years ago


The west has been jealous from the late 80s up till now, simply due to the fact they can't move as fast & robust as Dubai, their system is crumbling by their own doing. What are some of these commentators talk about? P&L? P&L in comparison to failed countries & other failing countries let alone bankrupt cities, now that's ignorance or they should just say what is truly on their mind, they seriously hate Dubai. Fine they should just look away, fly away, go away & good riddance.