The two princes in hot water have one thing in common: a history of terrible personal and political choices
Prince Andrew and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia have both had a bad week.
On the very same day that Prince Andrew was giving his disastrous interview explaining his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the crown prince – often referred to as MbS – was hearing from international bankers about the failure of his bid to sell part of Aramco, the state oil company, for a high price on the international markets. The sale had been heralded as the moment when Saudi Arabia would use its oil wealth to exalt its status as a world power.
The two princes have many characteristics in common: both have a reputation for arrogance, ignoring expert advice and showing startlingly poor judgement in taking decisions. The result has been a dismally unsuccessful record for both men.
In the case of Prince Andrew, these failures have been on a limited scale thanks to his relative powerlessness beyond his immediate circle. But ever since his elderly father became king of Saudi Arabia in January 2015, MbS has been the effective ruler of his country.
And it is his performance in this role, his power enhanced by his appointment as crown prince in 2017, that explains in part why international investors baulked at buying even a small piece – only 1.5 per cent was on offer – of Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, at the high overall valuation of $2 trillion placed on it by the Saudis.
One factor fuelling their caution will be their perception that foreign investment in Saudi Arabia faces an enhanced political risk under MbS. His radical measures at home and abroad, so very different from traditional Saudi policies, have seldom succeeded and have sometimes ended in calamity.
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