PUNTA DEL ESTE – Without his characteristic robe, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani could have gone unnoticed among the thousands of tourists who came to the East. The emir of Qatar, however, attracted all the attention with his arrival in the Uruguayan resort, where he arrived last weekend to receive the 2023 and to lead private meetings.
Hand in hand with the tennis player turned businessman Gastón Gaudio, the emir arrived in a climate of absolute secrecy. “One of the values of our government is privacy in Uruguay”, said a top official of Luis Lacalle Pou’s government, when asked about the Qatari leader.
Tamim’s arrival took place together with the appearance of two mega ships in the port of Punta del Este, which attracted the attention of locals and tourists. They are the Alpha and Aquarius ships, two vessels that -together- have a valuation of more than 300 million dollars.
According to LA NACION, the Emir of Qatar uses one of the boats for his private use, while the other is destined for his officials and security team. All the leader’s movements are surgical and are kept in strict security operations.
Yesterday, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani was seen having lunch at the iconic Parador La Huella, in José Ignacio. He arrived there with Gaudio, his Argentine friend. In the next few days, the emir is expected to continue his visit to Latin America with a trip to Brazil.
Who is the Emir of Qatar
Billions of people around the world saw the image of Tamim in the last final of the World Cup in Qatar. The emir was the one who put the black cape (“bisht”) on Lionel Messi and then presented him and FIFA president Gianni Infantino with the World Cup.
But how did Tamim become one of the richest men in the world? A little more than half a century ago, the Al Thani family lived in a two-story house near the sea, when the coast had only sand, boats and a few prospectors still surviving the pearl crisis.
First it was oil and closer in time gas, which catapulted this small emirate to dispute the power of its more powerful neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.
Tamim bin Hamad, but also his predecessor, his father, Hamad bin Khalifa, explains why they have invested more than 200 billion dollars in recent years and why the World Cup was only a stepping stone to insert themselves in the international chessboard.
In 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father in a non-violent coup, until then the one who ruled the destinies of the family and the country, kept a low profile and a policy of non-intervention, something that was to the liking of the Saudis. But soon after, everything changed in this peninsula, fifteen times smaller than Uruguay, the country where he spent the New Year.
Qatar’s big breakthrough came in the mid-1990s, when it partnered with U.S. and Japanese companies to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and exploit the reserves they had discovered offshore. Dollars started flowing in by the billions and the Al Thani’s then came up with an ambitious expansion plan.
At the turn of the century, some of the symbols of the new country emerged, such as the Al-Jazeera network, Qatar Airways, and the foundations were laid for the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund that spreads its arms across Europe, Asia and the United States.
Managed by the royal family, it has shares in the London Stock Exchange, in the Volkswagen and Porsche automakers, acquired emblematic brands such as Harrods stores, Tiffany jewelers, the Hollywood studio Miramax, and participates in companies such as British Airways, Barclays and Credit Suisse banks, among many others around the world. It is estimated that in the United Kingdom alone, where the current emir and a large part of the royal family was formed, he has invested more than 50 billion dollars.
Soccer, Macri and Gaudio
It was with soccer that the Al Thani family further opened their horizons. In 2005, Tamim founded Qatar Sport Investments. One of his first coups was the purchase of a club in crisis, in which he spent nearly a billion dollars and where Leo Messi currently plays: Paris Saint-Germain. He also invested in Barcelona and dreams of bringing the Olympic Games to his country.
Undoubtedly, the transforming event was obtaining, in 2010, the organization of the last World Cup won by Argentina. It was a process marked by a lack of transparency, with strong accusations of corruption, to take the World Cup to the desert, in a single city and where even the starting date had to be changed.
Despite fighting with federations from countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan, Tamim went ahead. Nothing stopped him from fulfilling the Qatar National Vision 2030 plan, towards which the new country is aiming.
Tamim maintains a good relationship with former President Mauricio Macri, whom he visited in Buenos Aires in 2018. There, they signed agreements related to the suppression of diplomatic visa and three memorandums on education, sports and production and employment. During the last World Cup, he held different meetings with the former Argentine president.
After Argentina’s qualification to the World Cup final, Macri received an invitation from the powerful Qatari royal family. Yassim is the emir’s older brother and was the president of the Supreme Committee, the body that organized the World Cup.
The Qatari prince organized a mini-tournament in which the former Argentinean president and several soccer legends participated. Gabriel Batistuta, Brazil’s Ronaldo and the Dutch Patrick Kluivert and Ronald de Boer, among others, played.
The fluid relationship between Macri and the royal family was developed through the figure of former Roland Garros champion Gastón Gaudio, who participated in several business deals associated with Qatar. Before the national team’s match against Poland, he facilitated the first meeting between Macri and Tamin on Qatari soil during the World Cup.
Gaudio has his own relationship with Macri and with the Boca world as well. Qatar Airways, which was founded in the 1990s by the Qatari royal family and today is one of the largest airlines in the world, signed an agreement with the Argentine club in 2018 to be the main sponsor of the shirt for US$7 million per year. Gaudio’s influence was decisive for the signing of that contract, which was signed during the management of Macri’s judicial arm, Daniel Angelici.
After sharing an intense month in the Middle East, which was crowned with the world title of Messi’s national team, Gaudio and Tamin met again this New Year under the sun of the East.
Three wives and a life of luxury
Although Tamim seeks to portray himself in the eyes of the West as a moderate leader, he is also known for his opulent lifestyle. His family owns the most expensive residence in the United Kingdom, for which he paid US$150 million in central London, and is estimated to own more property than the British royal family in the country’s capital.
The 42-year-old emir has three wives. However, in order to show himself as a Westernized leader, he usually makes state visits with the first of them, Jawaher Bint Hamad. On the recent visit to Spain, both were dressed without their traditional Arab costumes and were received with real honors: Tamin announced that he would increase energy investments by up to US$4.7 billion. The Qatari royal family also enjoys summering in the warm waters of the Spanish Mediterranean. They usually show up in Mallorca, with a large entourage, luxury cars and private jets. There he usually takes his luxurious yacht, one of the most expensive in the world, valued at more than 200 million dollars.
Also on this trip to the eastern beaches, the emir showed himself in Bermuda shorts and a blue sweater, a far cry from the traditional attire he wore during the World Cup in Doha.
Source: LA NACION