How Dubai Holding elevated the UAE’s economy

Managing HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s wealth, Dubai Holding is cementing its position among the largest family offices globally. The firm successfully transformed the UAE into a prime destination for HNWI and corporations, playing a vital role in shaping Dubai’s landscape through real estate and the hospitality industry. This case study explores Sheik Ahmed’s early years, career, and continued impact through Dubai Holding.

Dubai Holding
Updated on May 31, 2024

Established in 2004, Dubai Holding now manages over $130 billion AUM. It employs over 20,000 employees and operates in over 13 countries worldwide. Aligned with the UAE government’s vision, the firm drives impact in ten sectors, including the hospitality, real estate, and ICT industries.

About the Company

Dubai Holding

  • Location United Arab Emirates
  • Type Family business
  • Founded 2004

Early years and career

Born in 1958, Saeed bin Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum is the youngest son of Dubai’s former ruler, Saeed bin Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum. Baked in royalty, he shares family ties with Dubai’s former ruler, Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and its current ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. However, not his blood but his remarkable business acumen gave him prominence in Dubai’s ruling family.

After graduating from Denver University in the US in 1985, Sheik Ahmed was appointed president of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA). The same year, he was tasked to start Dubai’s Emirates Airline with $10m of government seed money. With humble confidence, he went about putting Dubai International Airport (DXB) on the global map, making it one of the world’s largest hubs by the number of international passengers.

Making Dubai the go-to destination

Many may attribute DXB’s success to the signing of the Open Sky Agreement between the UAE and the US in 2002. But Sheik Ahmen maintains that Dubai has always operated with an open sky policy. In his 2016 interview at the World Government Summit, he stated that he had only one mandate from His Highness: “As long as you make money, you don’t come for any financial support; you can do whatever you want with the airline.” With the ambition to be number one at the time, he set about building infrastructure and hospitality to ensure that people didn’t just fly over the Emirates but made it a place of destination.

Today, Dubai has become one of the busiest international airports in the world, surpassing London’s Heathrow. Despite the political instability in the Middle East, fluctuating fuel prices, and currency fluctuations in pricing, Emirates Airlines has consistently recorded profits and remains among the top five airlines, while many national carriers have failed.  In 2023, the city, with a population of 3 million, saw airline passenger traffic of over 86 million.

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Building an empire

Sheikh Ahmed has achieved a great deal for Dubai. Not only did he create a thriving national airline from scratch, but he continued to invest in the city’s landscape through his family office. Dubai Holding, one of the largest landowners in the city, owns over 26 million square meters of land. The firm has invested in impressive skyscrapers in Business Bay, luxurious 1/JBR apartments, and hotels in Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Its hospitality arm, Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, operates and manages several hotels, resorts and residences across the Middle East, Europe and Asia. In fact, it is behind the establishment of one of the most iconic landmarks, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. To this day, the ground-breaking sail-shaped skyscraper is still regarded as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

In addition to its real estate and hospitality investments, Dubai Holding launched The Innovation Hub in 2019. The retail space spans 1.8 million feet and is aligned with the government’s strategy to turn Dubai into a smart city. It houses state-of-the-art technology and communications facilities to cater to the global business district, Dubai Internet City.

Continuing to raise the bar

A royal who is not about to retire, Sheik Ahmen still holds several influential positions in government and the private sector. As the Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airlines and Group, he is vocal about the future of aviation. Constantly raising the bar for luxury experience, he believes that first-class seating configuration will continue to be crucial for the airline.

His gravity-defying work ethic and dedication to delivering exceptional customer experiences are remarkable. To end with his quote, “We always work like the military, who are there when we are wanted, regardless of what time of day. We never think about weekends, holidays, and so on.”

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