May 29, 2018 / 12:10 PM / 6 months ago

Chairman of Saudi media group MBC allowed to travel to Dubai

DUBAI, May 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian authorities have allowed MBC Group chairman Waleed al-Ibrahim to leave the kingdom for the first time since he was swept up in an anti-graft purge late last year.

Ibrahim chaired a strategy meeting at the headquarters of the Middle East’s largest private media company in Dubai on Tuesday, MBC said in a statement.

He arrived in Dubai hours before the meeting, the first time since his November detention that he was able to leave the kingdom, according to a source close to him.

Saudi authorities had detained Ibrahim in November along with scores of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest royals, government officials and businessmen at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Many were freed after reaching financial settlements with the government, often involving the transfer of cash, land or shares in companies.

Ibrahim, who founded MBC, was released from detention in late January. A senior MBC executive said at the time that he was found innocent of any wrongdoing.

But Ibrahim was required to remain inside the kingdom as the government finalised arrangements to take a controlling 60 percent stake in MBC, sources briefed on the talks told Reuters.

The sources said the state was acquiring stakes belonging to Ibrahim’s three brothers and another Jeddah-based businessman, all of whom were also detained in the purge, while leaving the remaining 40 percent of the company in Ibrahim’s hands.

MBC said in its statement that Ibrahim would retain his stake and had, in his capacity as chairman, reviewed growth plans during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The coming stage shall witness MBC Group’s entry into new markets and sectors, in various fields, with the group shifting a greater focus towards Saudi Arabia and neighbouring regions, in line with the current transformational positive changes occurring in the Kingdom,” the statement quoted him as saying.

It listed premium content production, media, entertainment, ICT, and technology among the sectors being considered for expansion. (Reporting by Katie Paul. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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