In a sweeping display of financial prowess, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan has emerged as a commanding force on the global stage, amassing control of the United Arab Emirates’ most substantial sovereign wealth fund, amassing assets under his purview approaching a staggering $1.5 trillion.
As the wealth derived from Gulf oil surges across the world, reshaping industries, bolstering economies, and influencing sports, a prominent member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling dynasty has ascended to a position of extraordinary influence.
Over recent months, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan has methodically extended his dominion, now wielding command over the largest sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates. With an expanded empire encompassing private and state entities, he has embarked on a multibillion-dollar investment odyssey, beckoning luminaries of finance such as Rajeev Misra and billionaire Ray Dalio into his orbit. Sheikh Tahnoon, not only one of Abu Dhabi’s two deputy rulers but also the UAE’s national security adviser and brother to its president, now orchestrates investments spanning the realms of technology and finance, each with its unique trajectory of triumph.
A connoisseur of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, cycling, and chess, Sheikh Tahnoon presides over two sovereign wealth funds, the region’s preeminent private investment behemoth, the largest lender in the nation, and its most substantial publicly-listed corporation. This ascension has positioned him as the de facto business magnate of the affluent Al Nahyan family, endowed with access to seemingly boundless reservoirs of capital in the OPEC’s third-largest oil producer, a reservoir of financial power scarcely matched, even amid the opulence of the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
Born in the late 1960s, a period following the discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi, when the UAE remained a backwater enclave housing fewer than 250,000 inhabitants—compared to its present populace nearing 10 million—Sheikh Tahnoon has steadily assumed the mantle of his nation’s global ambitions.
Karen Young, a distinguished research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, remarks, “The UAE leadership has recognized its most important source of statecraft is financial. It has the economic means to secure itself, to project power and to shape the politics around it in ways that it could never achieve with its small size or military power alone.”
Sheikh Tahnoon has evolved into the mastermind behind a multitude of statecraft instruments, deploying economic influence as a cornerstone of foreign policy.
His colossal ambitions are evident in early overtures to acquire Standard Chartered Plc and Lazard Ltd., even though these endeavors ultimately bore no fruit. Noteworthy transactions also encompass an investment in ByteDance Ltd., the parent company of TikTok Inc., a $10 billion fund earmarked for tech opportunities, an arrangement to fund Rajeev Misra’s new $6.8 billion venture, and a joint acquisition of Colombia’s premier food manufacturer, undertaken in collaboration with billionaire financier Jaime Gilinski. Furthermore, his principal entity, G42, forges ties with Cerebras Systems Inc., renowned for constructing the inaugural AI supercomputer outside the purview of Nvidia Corp. technology.
Despite the immense financial arsenal at his disposal, Sheikh Tahnoon’s entities have encountered hurdles while brokering cross-border deals, exemplified by the Standard Chartered negotiations, partly due to the intricate landscape of international M&A regulations. There are foreseeable challenges on the horizon, caution financial experts and legal authorities.
Bankers and lawyers caution that some investment vehicles linked to Abu Dhabi could encounter impediments due to national security evaluations, as the US Committee on Foreign Investment heightens scrutiny of international investments with ties to the Chinese government. Concurrently, the UAE’s forthcoming participation in the BRICS alliance—a coalition of significant emerging markets—nudges it closer to Beijing’s orbit.
The complexity of US deals has increased for Gulf entities, emphasizes Lynn Ammar, a partner at the Abu Dhabi-based Cleary Gottlieb law firm. She underscores, “The broad geographic scope is likely to continue to attract attention from FDI authorities, such as CFIUS, who may be concerned about potential information flow to China.”
These additional pressures coincide with Sheikh Tahnoon’s investment portfolios displaying a predilection for emerging markets. G42’s tech fund has embarked on establishing teams in Asian metropolises, notably Shanghai, to identify investment opportunities. Simultaneously, his private investment company, Royal Group, has long prized India as the prospective engine of growth for the ensuing decade.
Furthermore, G42 has engaged in advanced dialogues to expand its human genome project across African and Asian nations. The project also casts its gaze towards the United States, Europe, and Latin America, constituting further domains of interest for Royal Group.
Syed Basar Shueb, CEO of Sheikh Tahnoon’s International Holding Co., underscores their exploration of opportunities in emerging markets, accentuating that membership in BRICS would bolster the UAE’s global affiliations. However, representatives for Royal Group, G42, the UAE’s government media office, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs refrained from commenting.
Following a reshuffle in March, Sheikh Tahnoon assumed command of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). Notably, UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed—commonly known as MBZ—designated his eldest son, Sheikh Khaled bin Mohammed, as the crown prince and heir, following a year-long vacancy in the position.
ADIA, valued at $993 billion, ranks amongst the world’s most substantial sovereign wealth funds, occupying the second-highest perch in terms of deal expenditure among regional counterparts since the inception of 2022. Sheikh Tahnoon’s other financial vehicles, including the enigmatic Royal Group, have magnanimously dispensed billions more.
However, Abu Dhabi’s financial potency has not always surmounted obstacles. First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC, the institution overseen by Sheikh Tahnoon, considered a bid for Standard Chartered, consummating the acquisition of Bank Audi’s Egyptian division in 2021. Nonetheless, it withdrew a $1.2 billion bid for the Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes in the wake of protracted regulatory delays. In the case of Standard Chartered, the ambitious endeavor faced daunting odds due to the vast disparity in scale between the two banking giants, coupled with onerous regulatory approvals and compliance requirements.
Nevertheless, Abu Dhabi remains a crucible of dealmaking, with Sheikh Tahnoon actively fostering the emirate’s burgeoning financial influence, luring an array of billionaires. Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, has established a branch of his family office in Abu Dhabi and embarked on collaborative ventures with Sheikh Tahnoon.
In his role as a diplomatic troubleshooter for his brother, the president, Sheikh Tahnoon has propelled his nation into strategically significant markets worldwide. The UAE has inked a series of agreements to invest in Asian and African economies, including Indonesia, where discussions with G42 and Dalio have contemplated collaboration in constructing the new capital city. Regionally, the royal has spearheaded investments in Egypt and, more recently, Turkey, where the Gulf nation has pledged over $50 billion in investment.
Sheikh Tahnoon’s ascendancy wields a geopolitical dimension, with his entities eyeing overseas investments as a means to consolidate wealth for future