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Wed 10 Dec 2008 06:21 PM

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Rich List-Mahdi Al-Tajir

Rich List-Mahdi Al-Tajir

A former UAE ambassador to the UK and France, Al-Tajir spends much of his time at his palatial London home or on his 15,000-acre Perthshire estate, where he bottles and sells Highland Spring Water.

These days his son Maher Al-Tajir runs much of the family’s UK ventures, including the mineral water business. Mahdi Al-Tajir, who is originally from Bahrain and still enjoys close relations with Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family, got his start by organising the customs department in Dubai.

Quite legitimately, he received a percentage of the port’s gold trade and eventually a piece of every oil lease that was negotiated. Forbes magazine once quoted a Kuwaiti banker as saying “He’s the Mr Fixit of Dubai. If you want something done, you just naturally go to Mahdi.”

The publicity-shy Al-Tajir made headlines in 1990 when an armed gang made off with US$10m of antiques from his Buckinghamshire mansion, and a few months later fire caused US$100m worth of damage to his property. In 1997 it was hit again by an arson attack. He made headlines in 2006 after being ordered to remove padlocks from the gates of the estate, which he had turned into a fortress. Al-Tajir’s other businesses are involved in metal trading, oil and gas interests and, inevitably, he has a huge property portfolio, which includes London’s Park Tower Hotel, many managed by Liechtenstein trusts.

Today, Al-Tajir is also known for his extensive collection of antique silver artefacts and carpets and is the local partner for the recently established Bonham’s office in Jumeirah. On the opening of the age-old auctioneer’s office Al-Tajir said, “The UAE is destined to become one of the world’s leading art markets, with visionary plans in place for the country to become the new international centre for the commercial art market.”

Back in the UK, Highland Spring – which has been the subject of much conjecture over a takeover by Coca Cola — has snapped up Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Chris Hoy as an ambassador for the brand.

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