By Mirna Sleiman /Reuters
DUBAI: British dealmaker Amanda Staveley, restaurateur turned go-to broker for the Abu Dhabi royal family, has made millions in a region where women rarely play high-profile roles.
More could be in the pipeline after sources said on Tuesday that she was advising the Abu Dhabi ruling family on talks to buy a stake in Royal Bank of Scotland, in which Britain took a stake of 83 percent at the height of the financial crisis.
The Briton, 38, who knows her way around the hallways of power in the Middle East, played a prominent role in Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahayan’s 2008 investment in another British bank, Barclays.
Sheikh Mansour is the younger brother of Abu Dhabi ruler and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.
Staveley also worked on Sheikh Mansour’s acquisition of Manchester City football club, albeit for the seller, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai.
In a 2011 interview, Staveley, who comes from a well-to-do family and opened a restaurant at 23, said it was her venture into a high-tech conference center near Cambridge University that captured the attention of Abu Dhabi officials. It also earned her a “Businesswoman of the Year” award.
She was invited to the emirate in 2000.
“I flew to the United Arab Emirates, and I looked out at all the desert, and I just felt … that this is just a place that was going to be important to me,” she told the Financial Times.
In 2005, she set up a private equity firm, PCP Capital Partners, which is based in London’s swanky Mayfair district. She has said the small size of the firm, which also now includes her Iranian-born husband of six months, enables it to be nimble and react faster than major investment banks.
“She convinces you that she can definitely do it and then goes around trying to figure out how,” said a former fund manager at a Gulf sovereign wealth fund. “Bankers around here do not necessarily like her. She pulls the rug from under their feet.”
Staveley, once a tabloid fixture when she dated Britain’s Prince Andrew, was in London and unavailable for comment on Tuesday, her spokesman said. She currently lives in Dubai.
“She’s very persistent, very persuasive,” said a senior banker whom Staveley approached to arrange financing on a deal.
The banker, then at a major US bank, ultimately declined the deal after a marathon dinner pitch but admired Staveley’s relentlessness.
She has long had detractors in the region, partly a result of enviable connections to powerful monied royals, and partly what some critics called a penchant for self-promotion and high fees.
On the Barclays deal, it was touted that she made as much as 40 million pounds, a figure Staveley has not publicly confirmed or denied.