Some guys have all the luck. There Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan was, lazily planting potatoes back at his allotment in Abu Dhabi, when, as if from nowhere, he stumbled across something dark and runny. “Oil! Finally something’s gone my way. Right I’m off to buy City”.
And that’s how it happened. Ok it wasn’t exactly what happened. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan was in actual fact born in 1970, one of 19 sons fathered by Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, and ruler of Abu Dhabi. After oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in 1958, Sheikh Zayed and his family became one of the wealthiest families in the world owing to the vast quantity of oil that is found in the region. Today, Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour holds the position of Minister for Presidential Affairs in the UAE cabinet, whilst his brother Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is the current President of UAE and emir (ruler) of Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is geographically the largest of 7 states which make up the United Arab Emirates, and enjoys an intense rivalry with its more entrepreneurial neighbour Dubai. Sheikh Mansour’s family has an estimated fortune of $1trillion (£555billion), although the exact value of family is thought inestimable. Every time the price of oil rises by just one U.S. dollar, it is said that Abu Dhabi make $500million. All of this made the Sheikh’s £210m purchase of Manchester City through the Abu Dhabi United Group, hardly controversial amongst his family members. Nor were eyebrows raised, one would imagine, when the group splashed out £400m on the club subsequently, in transfers and wages for players such as Robinho, Craig Bellamy, Nigel de Jong, Shay Given, Wayne Bridge, Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Joleon Lescott, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré and Adam Johnson.
The purchase of Manchester City was brokered by Sheikh Mansour’s right hand man Dr. Sulaiman al-Fahim, a leading figure in the Abu Dhabi Group. Whilst Manchester City plan to break even at some stage, unlike Chelsea, the group has set out no timescale as to when this will be achieved. In Four Four Two’s football rich list last year, Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich had slipped into third place in the table, with an estimated fortune of ‘just’ £7.1 billion. Whilst Sheikh Mansour’s family fortune could be more that £550billion, the Abu Dhabi United Group is believed to have around £15billion of which Manchester City technically has access to.
Abu Dhabi’s intense rivalry with Dubai has seen the nation’s family investing in sport to gain prestige and notoriety around the world, with Abu Dhabi purchasing a £91m five per cent stake in Ferrari with the aim of seeing a Formula One Grand Prix take place in their nation. It is believed that the groups purchase of Manchester City is closely linked to the nations wish to expand their profile in Europe and the west more generally.
Sheikh Mansour has two wives, Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, and the UAE’s Vice-President and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktom, with whom he has two children. The Sheikh also married Sheikha Alia bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed in the early 90s, and they have one son together.
In short, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is unimaginably rich, has two wives, and owns a Premier League football club, for whom he can buy whichever player takes his fancy (Robinho anyone?) It’s a hard life isn’t it.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going down to the shed to get a shovel. There’s got to be some oil out there somewhere…