Chapter Two: Entrepreneur

Nasser was not destined to be a businessman but he was surprisingly good at it. Or at least facets of it.  After his university years were unexpectedly interrupted he had to face a new challenge.

Sheikh Nasser Entrepreneur

Nasser was summoned by his father to help in family business. It was then he would discover that he had the ability to think outside conventional mores and propose creative solutions to business problems. He used this opportunity to catapult into the business world, where he established himself as a capable and innovative entrepreneur.

He founded many investment firms such as al-Futtooh Holding Company, Kuwait Investment Projects Company (KIPCO), United Fisheries, United Real Estate, and others in banking, insurance, industry, media and technology.

The discussion got a bit technical
Thinking ahead

While he found day-to-day operations tedious, he loved identifying a problem and developing the necessary tactics to resolve it.

Partnering with strong operations people who could implement his ideas proved to be an effective strategy for righting businesses moving in the wrong direction and launching new companies that would ultimately be successful.

Attaining the desired outcome was important; devising the solution that would achieve that outcome was his challenge; working with a team that would execute the strategy was critical.

At Lonrho meeting with Dr Khalil Osman, CEO of Gulf Fisheries in Kuwait

Nasser worked and invested in international companies, such as Lonrho, a London-based conglomerate where he was the first Arab and youngest member of Board of Directors, and Christie’s, the famous auction house, where he was a major shareholder.

This allowed him to sharpen his skills in identifying and understanding key strategic factors that affect business and thus investment. Politics and foreign affairs were factors in which Sheikh Nasser took particular interest in when making business decisions.

However, his interest in business slowly waned when politics and art collecting became his main preoccupations. He trusted the business to his younger brother Sheikh Hamad.

Nasser and Hamad at work
Nasser and Hamad

At home, Nasser identified some shortcomings in local policies that negatively affected business. Hence he grew more vocal about his interest in reforming and improving the existing system of governance.

Working in local and international investment gave Sheikh Nasser a sense of the strategic understanding of risk versus reward.

It sharpened his skills in understanding key strategic factors that affect business and thus investments.

He recognised that economic prosperity could be elusive and short-lived because of the complexities of the political environment.  

He would often generate scenarios which broadened into visions of what both business and politics in his country could become – and how they were inextricably linked.

As a concrete manifestation of his drive for reform and his will to eliminate political stagnation, in 1995 Nasser founded az-Zaman, a weekly political magazine.

The most notorious editorial penned by him was entitled “Is there a Solution?”, a call to solve structural governance issues that hinder sustained development that affect both economy and society. It was published in the 33rd issue of the magazine in 1999.

Young businessman

Nasser’s most prominent call was to find an alternative source of income for Kuwait other than the diminishing oil resources. That Kuwait become “a key port and a financial centre to support the needs of the nation” was the dream he had.

This is discussed further in Chapter 6: Visionary Leader.

Chapter Two: Entrepreneur Archive

Memories of Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah