Prince Ahmad: A force behind Arab media



RIYADH: ETAB NOOR

Published — Wednesday 7 August 2013

Last update 12 August 2013 10:33 am

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Prince Ahmad bin Salman is the prince and knight who stepped down from his horse and left our world a few years ago. Still, his memory remains with us and is ever-present in our minds. His work continues to reap the fruit of achievement until this very day.
Prince Ahmad bin Salman was a media magnet and founder of the largest media empire in the Arab world, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which publishes about 20 daily, weekly and monthly publications.
The late prince assumed a prominent role in his days by supporting Saudi media personalities, giving them the opportunity to lead and preside over large media institutions. Traces of his work are still prominent and so are his philanthropic contributions, bearing witness to his formidable character.
The flavorsome autobiography of Prince Ahmad captured the hearts and souls of Saudis and highlighted his attitudes and deeds by showcasing the most ten important days of his life in the 22nd episode of “Top Ten,” a talk show on Rotana Khalijia presented by Saud Al-Dosari.
The episode, entitled “Saudis Recall,” sees Al-Dosari shed light on the life of Prince Ahmad and the ten most important days of his life, as well as his endless support for the media, authors and Saudi media personalities. Other prominent features of the prince’s life to be highlighted as well include his passion for equestrianism, local and international horse competitions and the humanitarian and philanthropic side of his character.

A man of compassion
The episode begins with author Saleh Al-Hamadi, who was close to the prince and assumed the position of editor in chief of Al-Riyadiyah newspaper when Prince Ahmad was still alive.
“Words cannot express the noble and fine qualities of a person who did not pay heed to titles and fake things in life. Prince Ahmad was an exceptional person who was close to all classes of society and had a distinct relationship with all spectrums of the community. He was always keen on maintaining a good reputation of both his homeland and citizens.”

The husband and father
Prince Ahmad was married to Princess Lamia bint Meshal bin Saud bin Abdulaziz in 1986. They have five children, four daughters, Najla, Jasmine, Alia, Lana, and a son, Faisal.
Hamadi said that the day Najla, the prince’s eldest daughter, was born on Oct. 15th 1993, was one of the most extraordinary days of his life. His manager, Nasser bin Shanan, confirms that Prince Ahmad was attached to his children and wife and always asked about them during his business travels. He loved his daughters so much that he was dubbed “the father of the girls.”
He pointed out that the prince established an exclusive club for his close friends and called it “the Girls’ Fathers Club.”
“His sense of community and philanthropic activities were a distinct feature of his character. Add to that taking upon himself the mission of freeing those detained for blood crimes and his unyielding interests and efforts for all kinds of reforms in society,” added Hamadi.

Saudi Research and
Marketing Group
In his interview with Hamadi, Al-Dosari moved on to talk about a year after Prince Ahmad was married, in 1987, when the prince founded the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. This group, said Hamadi, was transformed from one individual institution to a group of 20 media institutions, and went on to be one of the largest media groups in the Arab world.
“The late prince was always emphasizing the principle of team work,” said Hamadi, adding: “The prince was always repeating in his meetings with editors in chief that ‘a man of such ranks is only strong and efficient when he is present in meetings in London, Paris or Spain at all times’.”
Hamadi said that only a handful of people know that the market value of the group increased more than 50 times over when it was listed on the stock market once he took over the management of the group.

Military life
How was a military man transformed to a media magnet, Al-Dosari asked.
To answer this question, Hamadi said that the late Prince Ahmad loved military life and was always expressing his admiration for role models such as Prince Khaled bin Sultan and other comrades in the military with him, including Ahmad Al-Saloom.
However, he knew that in order to excel, he could not be both in the military and in the business sector at the same time,” said Hamadi, “So he took off his military suit and established a construction and maintenance company.”

A love for horses
Prince Ahmad had a great passion for horses, said Hamadi. “This became obvious when he was pursuing his studies in the USA. He won numerous championships, and within three years, had accomplished a victory in both the English and American Derbies,” asserted Hamadi.

The bonus man
How did such a fine, educated and sophisticated prince treat authors and media persons in general, asked Al-Dosari.
Sameer Atallah, a journalist and columnist in Asharq Al-Awast newspaper said: “Prince Ahmad managed to transfer his success in his private business to press management in record time and turned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper from a mere media accomplishment to a real media institution that can achieve both earnings and success at the same time.
“He was a man of decision and transparency,” added Atallah.
He introduced the one thing that was missing in Arab journalism, bonuses, referring to one incident where an editor received a bonus for an article written on India that wasn't that prominent.
Matar Al-Ahmadi, editor in chief of Sayidaty magazine during Prince Ahmad's era, said that Prince Ahmad followed the footsteps of his father, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, the crown prince and defense minister, in giving young Saudi journalists the opportunity to work, including Othman Al-Omair, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, Abdullah Bajubair and others. “That did not mean at any time denying non-Saudis the opportunity to work; they were all his friends,” said Al-Ahmadi.
“Prince Faisal bin Salman, governor of Madinah, resumed and completed the step by turning the group to a public listed institution in the stock market,” said Matar, adding: “The late Prince Ahmad bin Salman was a noble and generous man, a man of principle. This would be clear when I would communicate the grievances of some journalists and writers, to which he immediately responded.”

Charity organizations
Prince Ahmad bin Salman was keen on participating in charities, especially the Insan Charity Association.
Awad Al-Ghamdi said: “The late Prince Ahmad was a major supporter of the association and handicapped children, in addition to its numerous charity projects.”
He added that the Prince was always very close to these children to the extent that he became a symbol for humanitarian services. “He even adopted the association’s logo and donated funds for the establishment of the Prince Turki Hall, as well as other projects.”
Former editor in chief of Arab News, Khaled Al-Maeena, said that Prince Ahmad possessed a pleasant and joyous personality. “He was a kind, generous man who had the best interests of the employees working for him at heart.”
“In 1991, prior to the war on Iraq, he paid a visit to the newspaper, and reporters demanded that they be equipped with communication tools similar to those used by western reporters at newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. He approved their demands and ordered they be provided by satellite phones, four-wheel drive vehicles and the other such resources.”
Abdullah Al-Mousa, supervisor of Prince Ahmed bin Salman's Applied Media Institute, a project launched by Prince Ahmad in 2004 and open for operation in 2008, said:
“Prince Ahmad bin Salman's Applied Media Institute is one of the important institutes both in the Arab world and the Gulf region at large. It offers platforms for developing businesses and media staff on a global level ,” added Al-Mousa.

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