RIYADH: Top British and American businessmen discussed strategies in investing on the last day of the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital on Thursday.
They were panelists in the session “The world in 2030: Creating value for the next generation” with Rima Maktabi, Lebanese TV presenter and award winning journalist, as the moderator.
The panelists comprised Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; Steve Case, American entrepreneur and co-founder and chairman of America Online; and David Bonderman, American businessman and founding member of the TPG Capital and its Asian affiliate, Newbridge Capital.
Branson said that that as a businessman, he started when he was only 17 by editing a magazine for students, followed by dealing in music tapes which gave way to Virgin Records. Now, he heads a business empire comprising over 300 companies after 50 years of being in business.
Asked if how he copes with the ups and downs, he said that he draws support from his family as well as close friends, adding that he’s close to his wife and two children with whom he goes on vacations.
“I am very lucky with my family, children, grandchildren and friends. With good health and close family, you can cope with the ups and down in life,” he said.
He said: “I have a rule, and that’s starting something and do it better than the competition,” adding that for two years, Virgin Cola was outselling the two biggest industry players.
He also disclosed that he likes Saudi Arabia which intends, he said, to invest in Virgin Group space companies.
The contract is described as a “partnership on spaceflight, satellite launch and space-centric entertainment,” backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
The venture will fuel three Virgin companies — Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit — and includes an option for an additional $480 million.
On the other hand, Branson is the first international investor to commit to the Kingdom’s Red Sea project, a 200-km. development that will transform the coastline into a luxury destination.
For his part, Case said that he believes in “purpose-driven investing,” describing NEOM as a “good idea.”
NEOM is the world’s first independent special zone stretching over three countries and set to become a new vibrant destination in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia.
Case also mentioned his “Third Wave” book, where he takes the reader behind the scenes of the most consequential and riveting business decisions of our time and predicts that we’re at the dawn of the next technological revolution unlike anything we’ve seen before — the Third Wave of the Internet — that will transform the economy and the way we live.
On the other hand, Bonderman said that in creating value for the next generation, he believes in health care as an area of investment.
He noted the drugs available in the market in treating leukemia. These could be reasons for cancer to be on the way out, adding that “we’ll see more of that in the future.”
He described the investment and growth in the Kingdom under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “unbelievable.”