The Saudi Royal family and Aramco leadership are, and almost always have been, motivated by ambitions of longterm strength and profit. They use Islamic laws, Wahhabi ideology, gender discrimination, and public beheadings to maintain stability and their own power. Underneath the thobes and abayas and behind the religious fanaticism and illiberalism lies a most sophisticated and ruthless enterprise. Today, that enterprise is poised to pull off the biggest IPO in history. Over more than a century, fed by ambition and oil wealth, al Saud has come from nothing to rule as absolute monarchs, a contrast with the world around them and modernity itself. The story starts with Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul Aziz, a lonely refugee embarking on a daring gambit to reconquer his family’s ancestral home—the mudwalled city of Riyadh. It takes readers almost to present day, when the multinational family business has made al Saud the wealthiest family in the world and on the cusp of a new transformation. Now al Saud and its family business, Aramco, are embarking on their most ambitious move: taking the company public.
Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a widely cited consultant on geopolitics and the global energy industry. A frequent commentator on oil pricing, energy policy, alternative energies, OPEC, and political economy, she earned her doctorate in history at Boston University and an AB in history, Near Eastern Studies, and creative writing at Princeton University. She teaches Middle East history and policy and has appeared on TV and radio on three continents.