Billionaire entertainment and technology investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been released from detention in Saudi Arabia. According to multiple reports, the prince, whose Kingdom Holding company has has held major stakes in Fox, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Arab satellite TV networks and more, was freed today after more than two months being held at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton amid a hazy anti-corruption crackdown.
The terms of the release were not immediately clear, although the BBC reported Alwaleed was freed after a financial settlement was approved by the state prosecutor. In December, the Wall Street Journal reported the prince could pay a $6B fine to win his freedom.
The initial detention of the prominent prince occurred in November alongside the arrest of at least 10 other princes and hundreds of Saudi elite. They came at a time when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud is believed to be seeking to consolidate power, and to steer the Kingdom’s economy away from a reliance on oil. He has become a major voice in Saudi foreign relations, military, economics and social policies. Along with granting women the right to drive and attend sporting events, he has also spearheaded a move to lift a 35-year ban on public movie theaters.
Presaging the word of his release today, Alwaleed told Reuters earlier on Saturday that he expected to keep full control of Kingdom Holding without being required to give up assets. In a BBC video he described his two-month-plus (luxury) confinement as a “misunderstanding.” He said, “We have now a new leadership in Saudi Arabia, and they just want to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. And I said: ‘Fine, that’s fine with me, no problem at all. Just go ahead’.”
He noted there were “no charges, there are just some discussions between me and the government. But rest assured that this is a clean operation that we have. We are selling hotels, we are interacting. So everything is moving. It’s a misunderstanding and everything has been cleared.”
Reuters notes that in recent days there have been signs the purge is winding down. Other prominent businessmen, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, the owner of regional television network MBC, have been released.