City & Business: Disney prince

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The Independent Online
THE NEPHEW of King Faud of Saudi Arabia, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, is a relative novice to the world of deal- making. But he is already raising a few eyebrows. His rescue last week of Euro Disney, the troubled Parisian theme park, was intriguing, not just because it came out of the blue or because he negotiated the deal by phone from a tent in the Arabian desert. He also did the entire deal without the help of a single investment banker.

The prince is an enigmatic figure. Devout and teetotal, he nevertheless spends the summer moored off St Tropez in Donald Trump's former yacht. He has made shrewd investment decisions in the past. As Larry Black describes in our profile on page 6, he is sitting on a fortune after bailing out Citicorp, the biggest bank in the world, in the early 1990s. He is currently a joint bidder with Accor for Meridien, the hotel chain being sold by Air France.

Euro Disney may prove a tougher nut to crack, as anyone who has queued for rides in the Parisian drizzle will testify. But the prince's plan for a pounds 70m conference centre should beef up visitor numbers. It will also improve sentiment towards the theme park's forthcoming pounds 1.5bn restructuring. He will have been able to negotiate his cash injection from a position of strength.

We haven't heard the last of this man. He is reported to be worth dollars 4bn ( pounds 2.6bn) and says his ambition is to be a corporate raider. One of his aides claimed last week that he was in negotiations on 20 projects the size of the Euro Disney rescue at any one time.

'I want to be heard,' the prince told one interviewer. One thing is certain: dollars 4bn will buy him a lot of listeners. You can almost see the crowd of financiers with dud investment propositions beating a path to his tent flap.

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