clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who is Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the man rumored to be buying Napoli?

New, comments

Napoli have apparently caught the eye of a very rich, very powerful man.

Laurence Griffiths

Like a bolt of lightning, the rumor struck yesterday that a buyer has potentially been lined up to buy up at least a portion of Napoli, if not purchasing the club outright. While those who move in and around political circles are likely very familiar with Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani already, those who don't likely don't know much about one of the most powerful men in Qatar. So who is this man who has apparently persuaded Aurelio De Laurentiis to sell the club he loves so much?

Well, until a little over a year ago, he was the Emir of Qatar, the political leader of one of the richest nations in the world. He ruled from June of 1995 until June of 2013, holding Qatar's highest office for eighteen years after taking it by force in a (fortunately) bloodless coup d'etat that deposed his father, after running the day-to-day operations of the country's oil and natural gas resources, which are what makes Qatar so wealthy, for several years before that. The coup was carried out with the support of his family, so apparently it was done out of desire to help the country. He ruled without opposition until stepping down last year and handing the power to his son Tamim.

That faith his family showed was well-placed, as under Al Thani's rule, Qatar grew from an anecdotal afterthought that happened to be a major oil supplier to an economic power and a growing presence in the worlds of sports and journalism. The news network Al Jazeera was founded by his order, and it's become a major source of news worldwide, not just in the Middle East. They're notoriously independent, not much caring who they piss off in reporting the stories they feel need to be out there.

He was also the driving force behind Qatar's rising presence in the sporting world, leading to them hosting a variety of major international sporting events, including (controversially) winning the World Cup hosting bid for 2022. Al Thani has long been a fan of sports as a whole and apparently was quite an athlete while he was younger.

Speaking of when he was younger, Al Thani was born in 1952 in Doha, Qatar, and was educated in England, graduating from the royal military academy at Sandhurst in 1971 and earning a commission as a lieutenant colonel. He was given command of a mobile brigade in Qatar, and quickly rose to the rank of general, eventually serving as their army chief of staff for several years before moving in to a more straightforward political role when he was named Minister of Defense in 1977, and joined the nation's Supreme Planning Council in the early 1980's.

Politically, Al Thani seems fairly moderate on a whole, using conservative values to build Qatar's resource and financial power to truly impressive levels, and showing rather liberal values in more socially-related areas. Under his watch, the Qatar Investment Authority has become one of the premier financial powers in the world, with hundreds of billions invested in commercial, artistic, sporting, and humanitarian companies all around the world.

He's also, largely through his wife Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, done a significant amount of work to try and improve education, health, and overall wellness for children throughout the Middle East, as well as trying to improve equality for women in the region. While there's certainly some questionable moments on Al Thani's past, it's hard to deny that he's used his station to try and leave the world a better place than how he found it, and that's an admirable quality.

Napoli aren't the first club that Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Through a Qatari financial group, he attempted to purchase Manchester United in 2011, then fallen Scottish giants Rangers FC a year later. He's also been the driving force behind several other major Qatari sporting investments, most notably the massive sponsorship deal that the Qatar Foundation made with Barcelona. Now his eyes have turned to Italy and Napoli, and while many fans will balk at having a non-Italian owner, they certainly won't mind the massive financial power he and his family can bring to bear should Al Thani buy the club.