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Earth to Alwaleed: “How does it feel when we screw you?”


DUBAI – It may not be quite the most proper of social etiquette. But heck, you only live once.

So when society columnist Cindy Adams ran into Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns 5 percent of the failing Citicorp, observers report she just couldn’t help but ask the question that’s on every American’s mind.

“So tell me, Prince -- how does it feel when we screw you?” Adams smirkingly asked the red-faced oil sheik at a recent AIDS charity event in Dubai.

According to recently published reports, the high-profile Saudi billionaire, who bought approximately 4.7% of Citicorp just one year ago in what was sold to him as a “fool-proof” privately-financed bailout of the still-beleaguered financial institution, is down $4 billion dollars in his net worth so far this year – in large part because of reckless behavior by the top American executives at his investment of choice, Citicorp.

Alwaleed and the other princes of Saudi Arabia, of course, were some of the main drivers behind the dramatic spike in domestic gas prices in the U.S. to well over $4 a gallon for American motorists over the past summer – although those prices have tumbled to under $2 in many markets since the results of the fall election were announced.

According to media coverage at the time, that rise in gas prices forced some Americans to forego health care treatments such as prescription medications, while others had to reallocate money from their food and vacation budgets to pay for their suddenly doubled cost of basic transport.

According to sources who heard the conversation, Alwaleed responded to the feisty Adams that he had “full confidence” in Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and believes the bank’s financial problems will “resolve themselves with time.”

“Vikram has just taken over this one year and the legacy that he had is tremendous,’ the prince, who has lost 19 percent of his individual wealth so far this year, reportedly told Adams. “So he has my full confidence.”

And not to worry -- even with the losses, however, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal remains the world’s richest Arab, according to a ranking released over the weekend.

Arabian Business magazine said Prince Alwaleed’s holdings were worth $17.08 billion as of Dec. 2. The magazine says the figure is based on a direct review of the prince’s holdings and a meeting with the man who’s been dubbed ’’the Arabian Warren Buffett.’’

An official at Kingdom Holding, Prince Alwaleed’s investment company, did not immediately comment on that report.

Aside from Adams, other celebrities at the second annual Cinema Against AIDS gala in Dubai last week included Goldie Hawn, Salma Hayek, Laura Linney, Jeffrey Wright, James Franco, Danny Glover, George Clooney, D.J. Caruso, Harry and Pamela Belafonte, Adam Shankman, J.J. Abrams, Oliver Stone, Kevin Smith, Terry Gilliam and Anna Ferzetti.


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