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The Facebook post with the man in traditional Arab dress and a herd of camels purports to be a public service announcement.
The meme identifies the man as "Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal" and quotes him as saying, "A strong American Government is not good for us."
The twist: "#2 Owner of Fox News. Just thought you should know."
The post by Americans Against the Republican Party was shared and liked thousands of times, generating a ton of discussion. A reader asked us to weigh in.
The royal billionaire
We reached out to the group, linked to liberal site Addicting Info, but did not hear back. We also had no luck reaching spokespeople for Fox News or the prince.
A trail of public records and flashy news stories helped fill in some of the blanks. Not all.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, 58, whose grandfather was the founding king of modern Saudi Arabia, is no stranger to the United States or Western media. He considers himself a "great friend" of America and the "world’s foremost value investor."
He’s really rich:
- Like, flowers flown in from Holland on a weekly basis to his palace rich;
- Private zoo at his country estate rich;
- First person in the world to order an Airbus A380, a double-decker jet with space for luxury vehicles, horses and a pivoting prayer space that always points to Mecca, rich.
The American-educated multibillionaire has made investments around the world, including many in Western entities such as CitiGroup, the George V hotel in Paris, the Plaza hotel in New York, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Apple, TimeWarner, Saks, Twitter (here’s his account) and yes, News Corp.
In July 2013, Bloomberg rated him the 16th richest man in the world, with a net worth of $26.6 billion. Forbes ranked him No. 26 earlier at $20 billion and followed up with a story about his wealth that infuriated Alwaleed, who threatened to sue for libel and said the magazine undervalued his net worth. Forbes defended its work.
Best we can tell, the picture is of Prince Alwaleed.
Alwaleed’s interest in News Corp., the media conglomerate of Rupert Murdoch and once-parent company to Fox News, started in 1997 with a $400 million investment, according to a description of the investment on Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Co.’s website. That was 3 percent of News Corp.’s worth. In 2005, he increased his holding to 5.5 percent, the site states.
The picture is a little different now because News Corp. split into two companies in June 2013 amid fallout from the company’s phone-hacking controversy with its British newspapers.
The move spawned a new News Corp., housing publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Vogue. A second company, 21st Century Fox, oversees movies and TV programming, including the Fox News Channel.
Murdoch is chairman of both companies and controls just under 80 percent of the voting stock in each (between himself and his family trust). Who’s next in line? According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, it’s Alwaleed.
Alwaleed owns 7 percent of Class B voting stock with 21st Century Fox, second only to Murdoch, as of Aug. 19. The filing notes, in compliance with federal securities law, 40 percent of Alwaleed’s voting rights are suspended because he is not an American citizen.
The relationship with Murdoch is reciprocal. News Corp. has a sizable stake in Rotana, a broadcasting company that airs Arabic and English programming in the Middle East. Alwaleed owns an 80 percent stake of Rotana, according to Bloomberg.
So Alwaleed has a sizable interest in Fox News, second in one aspect only to Murdoch. Experts told us that translates to being the No. 2 owner of Fox News.
It’s accurate to say he’s the No. 2 owner, but he’s more of a passive major shareholder, said Jay Ritter, University of Florida finance professor, pointing out Alwaleed does not have a seat on the company’s board of directors. His investment resembles other stocks held in major companies by mutual funds and investment firms, who invest big in public companies but do not intend to take over.
What about the quote?
In many ways, the crux of this fact-check is whether Alwaleed said, "A strong American Government is not good for us."
Who the "us" is in the meme is not clear -- it could mean Fox News. Or it could mean Saudis or Muslims.
We searched for the quote in the meme in full and in part using Lexis Nexis and Google, with the assistance of a news researcher. It did not come up. A Google search of the full quote reveals few results, mainly linking to message boards or Facebook comments about the meme.
The closest thing to the supposed quote we found came from a June 2013 Wall Street Journal article about U.S. shale-oil production. Alwaleed was quoted in a letter saying the rise in U.S. oil production would be a threat to Saudi Arabia. "We see that rising North American shale gas production is an inevitable threat," he wrote.
It’s possible the meme wildly conflated those comments.
But even if so, the context is wildly misleading.
Internet memes sometimes make us laugh. This one is frustrating.
The post is correct that Prince Alwaleed is the No. 2 owner of Fox News (technically, 21st Century Fox, the giant movie and TV corporation that owns the network). It’s one of his many Western investments.
But we found no evidence the frequent guest of American media actually said, "A strong American government is bad for us." We especially could not find it uttered under the context in which the meme may intend for you to understand it: that a strong American government is bad for Fox News.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Americans Against the Republican Party Facebook post, Dec. 29, 2013
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal website, investments page, accessed Jan. 2, 2014
Wall Street Journal, "Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: An Ally Frets About American Retreat," Nov. 23, 2013
Wall Street Journal, "Shale threatens Saudi economy, warns Prince Alwaleed," July 23, 2013
New York Times’ The Lede blog, "Saudi royal backs imam and Fox News," Aug. 26, 2010
New York Times Magazine, "Questions for Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: Big Imam on campus," Jan. 1, 2006
Forbes, "The World’s Billionaires: Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud," March 4, 2013
Bloomberg profile for Kingdom Holding Co., accessed Jan. 2, 2014
Bloomberg, "‘Buffet of Arabia’ Alwaleed sees wealth wane," April 26, 2010
Bloomberg 2013 billionaire profiles, "Alwaleed Al Saud," July 8, 2013
Bloomberg, "Prince Alwaleed and the Curious Case of Kingdom Holding Stock," May 3, 2013
Financial Times, "Alwaleed backs under-fire Murdochs," June 25, 2011
Vanity Fair, "The stockholder in the sand," March 2013
Interview with G. Ryan Huston, University of South Florida tax professor, Jan. 2, 2014
Interview with Jay Ritter, University of Florida finance professor, Jan. 3, 2014
Email interview with Christina A. D’Amico, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission spokeswoman, Jan. 2, 2014
New York Times, "Buffet of Arabia? Well, maybe," March 28, 1999
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