“If there’s one thing the 2008 financial crisis has taught me is that punditry is a thing of the past and there’s absolutely no one who can predict what’s going to happen.” said Arif Naqvi, the Founder and CEO of the Abraaj Group. Naqvi spoke flawlessly as he addressed a packed house last year at the groups annual extravaganza titled ‘Abraaj Week’, a unique mega-event that strategically coincided with Art Dubai
It all seemed immaculate for the Middle Easts largest private equity group and the principal sponsor of Dubai’s largest art event until late last year. The Wall Street Journal first reported that four investors in Abraaj’s $1 billion health-care fund, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had recruited forensic accountants to investigate where their money had gone.
In a sudden turn of events - investor sentiment changed overnight and regulators called for scrutiny on the inner workings of the group. The Abraaj Week was canceled this year and the firm that once managed $14 billion in assets now faces provisional liquidation.
It seemed as though sale of some of its assets could keep the group afloat. However, things may be far worse – According to Bloomberg, UAE’s Jafar family is now seeking to recover about $300 million from Abraaj Holdings. Founder Arif Naqvi borrowed money from the family late last year and defaulted in February.
Art Dubai has almost single-handedly put Dubai in the global limelight. However, it must be noted that since its inception in 2007, Abraaj has been its principal sponsor. Will the embattled group continue its support of Art Dubai or will Dubai's largest art exhibition be forced to change patrons? Over the years, the annual exhibition has cemented its position as an industry leader and we certainly hope it continues to grow.