For the position: Prime Minister of Lebanon (or opposition leader)
Age: 39 (born April 18, 1970)
Parents: Rafiq al-Hariri and Nidal al-Bustani (Iraqi born)
Wife and kids: Syrian born Lara Azm, three children
Education: Bachelor of Arts/Science, International Business, Georgetown University
Net worth: $1.4 billion. Hariri's estimated fortune, much of it inherited, is growing, mainly due to involvement in construction and engineering, and to smart investing.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saad Hariri is Lebanon’s parliamentary majority leader, and a member of one of the richest non-oil families in the Middle East.
Saad’s involvement in politics came just four years ago, after his father, the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was killed in a massive car bomb explosion in Beirut.
At the time of the assassination, Saad was in Saudi Arabia, running the business his father founded, the $8 billion Saudi Oger group. The conglomerate includes real estate, telecommunication and construction interests, including Lebanon’s Future TV, Arab Bank, Saudi Investment Bank and Saudi Research and Marketing Group.
Saad had managed the family’s companies since he turned 26, in 1996, shortly after graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in business.
Forbes estimates Saad's current personal wealth, from inheritance and investments, at $1.4 billion, giving him the rank of 522nd richest man in the world.
Saad is a citizen of both Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He is married with three children, and is the second oldest living son of Rafiq. His eldest brother died in a car accident.
He became the public and political face of the Hariri family after his father’s assassination, and took over the leadership of Lebanon’s Future Movement, the largely Sunni Muslim political party his father founded. In May 2005, Saad Hariri helped lead the country’s anti-Syrian March 14th political camp to victory in parliamentary elections. He has called for and receives support from the U.S. government for his political causes, which include pushing for the Lebanese Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah to disarm.
Hariri blames Syria for his father’s assassination, a charge the Syrian government denies. He has been a driving force behind the creation of an international tribunal to find those responsible for his father’s assassination. The tribunal began operations at its headquarters in the Netherlands earlier this year.
According to an article by Condé Nast Portfolio, the family chose Hariri to take up his father’s political mantle because he is more “diplomatic” than his older brother, Bahaa. In interviews, Hariri said he was reluctant to take the job, but he felt his father’s work wasn’t finished.
"I think I am merely a symbol for now," he told the Agence France-Presse in 2005. "I need to work hard in the coming four years to ... fill a little bit of my father's shoes."
He has described his life as a politician as very different from that as a businessman.
“In business, you have only yourself to rely on,” Hariri told Condé Nast Portfolio. “There’s much more freedom to make decisions on new strategies or new ventures. Nobody is guessing your agenda. But now you’re living in the world of politics. You’re dealing with affairs nobody can agree on. It’s a far more complicated process. It’s a puzzle. And you have to fit all the pieces in the right place.”
Hariri spent much of the last several years holed up in the massive mansion his father built in west Beirut, as car bombs and assassinations took the lives of several of his political allies.
During street battles between Hariri’s U.S.-backed March 14 partisans and Hezbollah-allied opposition fighters in May 2008, a rocket-propelled grenade was reported to have hit his home. Today, several layers of security surround the Hariri mansion, including pill boxes and machine gun-wielding police.
"What has happened here in these two years has been a disaster. Tsunami after tsunami, bombs, terrorism,” he told Condé Nast in 2008.
But the political situation in Lebanon has been calm since May 2008, and Hariri is now preparing for a new round of parliamentary elections to be held in June. He will head the Future Movement’s list in one of Beirut’s voting districts. He will almost definitely win his district.
However, the election will be decided in other regions. The side that holds the majority of parliamentary seats will win the right to choose a prime minister. If Saad’s political opponents, the coalition that includes Hezbollah, triumph, Hariri says he will not take part in a “unity” government, but will lead an opposition.
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