An interview with Teymour Alireza

Published November 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

In 1997, Teymour Alireza joined the Board of Directors of Shell Transport and Trading Company plc as a Non-Executive Director, and he is the first representative from the Middle East to hold a position on a Shell Main Board.  

 

An international businessman, Vice Chairman and President of the Rezayat Group of Companies - and a member of the International Board of Trustees of the World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF] - he is based in Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

 

He talks to 'Shell in the Middle East' about his earlier days and outlines his career to date. He gives his views on the Royal Dutch/Shell Group's business principles and decision-making processes on a global scale.  

 

He then moves on to talk about Shell's operations in the Middle East and, more specifically, about his hopes that, with the opening up of Saudi Arabia's upstream oil and gas industry, "Shell will be permitted to work further with the Kingdom to transfer technology and provide jobs..." 

 

Q. Where were you born, brought up and educated? 

I was born in Jeddah in 1939, at which time my father was working in the Western Provinces for Aramco.  

 

My father had been educated at the famous Bombay English school of St Xaviers, and consequently spoke excellent English. One of his most memorable experiences was to have acted as an interpreter for His Majesty King Abdul Aziz at the time when Aramco exported its first cargo of Saudi crude oil. 

 

My family moved to Tehran in 1942, where we lived for eight years whilst my father developed his trading business there. These were very exciting times. There was the Second World War, and a great deal of turmoil in Iran, which culminated in the nationalization of the oil industry by Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1951. The face of the Middle East map was being changed. 

 

At the age of eleven, I was sent to Cairo, to the well-known English- speaking school Victoria College.  

 

My father moved the family to Kuwait, which then became the center of the family's business activities for many years before major operations were officially moved to Saudi Arabia. 

 

After college in Cairo, I went to George Washington University in Washington DC, where I studied History and Economics. I enjoyed my time at University very much. I also liked being in America, where I made a lot of friends. 

 

Q. Can you outline your career, from leaving University to your present position today? 

After University, my next step was to New York and Wall Street, where I worked for an investment banking company called Clark Dodge. This was a very interesting experience.  

 

I was fortunate enough to be made a partner of the company, and in 1966 I opened a branch office of Clark Dodge in Kuwait. After four years, I joined my father and the family business, still working in Kuwait. 

 

Our business operations were then, and are now, diversified, with activities in oil services, finance, construction and, of course, trading.  

 

In the early 70s, I returned to Saudi Arabia entrusted with the task of developing the Saudi Arabian and international parts of the family business. 

 

Today, the business, which my father built up and which I have continued to develop, now has offices all over the world, with major offices in Saudi Arabia, London, Kuwait, America, Hong Kong and the UAE. 

 

I am Vice Chairman and President of the Rezayat Group, the family business. Rezayat has now branched out into port management through a UAE-based subsidiary, Lamnalco, which manages the Forcados Port for Shell's operations in Nigeria. 

 

Lamnalco also manages port facilities for Petroleum Development Oman [PDO], a Shell joint venture. That said, these are the only business dealings my Group has had with Shell. The family business is also involved in the manufacture of steel piping and in transport services, and in many other sectors. 

 

Q. Did you find time for a family life during this time?  

I married in 1970 and have two boys and two girls. My eldest daughter went to Oxford University in the UK and then did law at Georgetown University in the USA. She is now working in the family business in London.  

 

My two sons both went to Brown University in the States, whilst my youngest daughter is just finishing her last year at Harvard. 

 

Q. When did you join the Board of Directors of Shell Transport and Trading Co.  

plc,and what does being a Shell Board Member involve? 

It was in 1997. The same year, in fact, that I was invited to become a member of the International Board of Trustees of the World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF] -another role of which I am very proud as I have a very keen interest in the protection of the environment for future generations. 

 

So I was asked to join the Board of Directors of Shell Transport and Trading Company that year.  

 

I was selected for a second term of three years as a Non-Executive Director of Shell Transport and Trading in May 2000 and I am, to date, the only representative from the Middle East on a Shell Main Board. All in all, there are 11 Directors of Shell Transport and Trading Company. 

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group has two Boards of Directors.  

 

One is for Shell Transport and Trading Ltd, which owns 40 per cent of the Group and which is the British arm of the Group. The second Board of Directors is for Royal Dutch, which owns 60 per cent and which is obviously the Dutch arm of the Group. 

 

Both Boards meet together alternately in The Hague and in London and these meetings are called 'conferences'. At these conferences, the various Managers of Shell's worldwide businesses present their proposals for what they would like to do.  

 

These proposals, as with any company, are accepted, rejected, or requests are made for further detailed information to enable the members of the conference to better evaluate the proposals. 

 

The two Boards then retire to conduct their own separate meetings to ratify the decisions made at the conference. 

 

I also sit on Shell's Committee for Social Responsibility, which is responsible for reviewing Shell's involvement in different parts of the world with regards to HSE [Health, Safety and the Environment] and business principles, and which ensures that Shell operating units are performing according to these principles. 

 

Q. Do you enjoy your role as a Board Member with Shell? 

Yes, I find the position to be highly stimulating. The meetings are very well conducted and I am impressed by the overall management of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to be associated with men and women of such a high caliber and with such enormous international responsibilities. 

 

It is gratifying to know that Shell has high ethical standards, and the Group is very conscious of all its stakeholders, including its shareholders, employees, suppliers and customers - in fact all who are involved with Shell in its business dealings. I like the transparency that exists between staff and towards shareholders and customers. 

 

Shell also has a unique approach to the environment, and whilst it is obviously important to achieve healthy profits for shareholders, I really do believe that Shell does it with principles and adheres to the concept of sustainable development. 

 

Although I am based in Riyadh, I am kept very well informed by Shell between Board meetings, and I am happy to say that Non-Executive Directors are very much involved in Shell's decision-making processes and in shaping the direction of the company. 

 

Q. Can you talk more specifically about Shell's activities in the Middle East? 

Shell is involved in so many programmes and joint ventures in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, where Sadaf [Saudi Petrochemical Company] and Sasref [Saudi Aramco and Shell Refinery] are situated. They are two of Shell's major businesses, both in the region and, indeed, in the world. 

 

Shell has made a proposal to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah and His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Negotiating Committee of the Supreme Petroleum and Minerals Council in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to become involved in the Kingdom's upstream oil and gas industry.  

 

I am hopeful that Shell will be permitted to work further with the Kingdom to transfer technology and provide jobs. 

 

Shell is already heavily involved in the Middle East with major operations in Egypt, Syria, Oman, Iran and the UAE, and the Group's commitment is both to the development of the economies of those countries and to the development of their people. I hope that Shell will be permitted to make that same commitment here in Saudi Arabia. 

Source: Shell Middle East 

© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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