Majid Al Futtaim: The man who saw tomorrow

When Dubai was still a sleepy port town, the business leader had already envisioned the emirate’s future as the world’s foremost luxury shopping and leisure destination



by

Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 12:19 AM

His dream was to create great moments for everyone every day. And that’s what he did until his death on Friday. Majid Al Futtaim saw what many couldn’t.

When Dubai was still a sleepy port town, he envisioned the emirate’s future as the world’s foremost luxury shopping and leisure destination. The forward-thinking businessman spearheaded the growth of Dubai as a global city with his bold moves.

He made a foray into the retail sector with the opening of City Centre Deira in 1995 which redefined the concept of malls in the region.

Years later he made the impossible possible by bringing snow to the desert with Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates, the group’s showpiece mall.

Born into a family of traders in Dubai, he started off as a bank clerk before founding Majid Al Futtaim Holding (MAF) in 1992.

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The business conglomerate went on to own and operate scores of shopping malls, retail, and leisure establishments in the MENA region, with operations in 16 countries. It also runs over 300 Carrefour supermarkets and hypermarkets across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, besides My City Centre neighbourhood centres, and five community malls in collaboration with the Sharjah government.

Vox Cinemas is a Majid Al Futtaim brand as well.

The group also has a portfolio of hotels which are managed by leading international hotel brands such as Sheraton, Kempinski, Aloft and Pullman, to name a few.

“Majid Al Futtaim was a visionary entrepreneur who transformed the face of business in the entire region, MAF Group said in a statement .

“His lifetime achievements have been an inspiration for many, and particularly for us at the MAF Group of Companies which was built around his clear sense of purpose and an unwavering vision,” the company said. “Majid Al Futtaim believed wholeheartedly in robust, world-class private sector institutions and the role they should play in driving sustainable economic growth [and] human development,” it said on Twitter.

“He worked tirelessly on turning this purpose and vision into a reality that acts as a role model for others. His legacy lives on in Majid Al Futtaim’s business and culture.”

Alain Bejjani, CEO, MAF Holding, said Majid Al Futtaim’s extraordinary foresight and clarity of purpose not only set the group on the path to success, but also greatly contributed to the UAE’s global reputation for innovation and excellence.

DMC chief Ahmed Bin Sulayem who describes “Majid Al Futtaim as a “beacon of inspiration”, said he was way ahead of his time.

“He took risks before people knew what risk was. When City Centre opened people thought it was humongous, only to see it tripled in size in subsequent years. The same goes for almost all his projects. He came up with extraordinary ideas and executed them to perfection. Look at Ski Dubai. Who would have thought of it,” said Bin Sulayem as he recalled the opening of the winter wonderland in 2005. “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, [Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai], and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed [bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai] were at the inauguration. Majid Al Futtaim’s vision was aligned with the Rulers.”

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that Majid Al Futtaim was the first major retail business to announce 3,000 jobs for Emiratis when Sheikh Mohammad announced the NAFIS programmme in September to accelerate the nation’s development journey while boosting the economy. The Dubai Ruler praised the move in a tweet at the time and reiterated it on Friday as well.


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