A special judicial committee has been appointed to weigh in on potential legal disputes over the estate of Emirati billionaire Majid Al Futtaim, widely seen as a pillar of Dubai’s tourism and economic growth.
The committee was appointed by Dubai’s ruler amid reports of discord among Al Futtaim’s 10 heirs, the Financial Times newspaper first reported over the weekend.
“There is a Special Judicial Committee whose role is to adjudicate potential legal disputes related to Mr Majid’s estate and inheritance issues, not to oversee the company or its business,” the company confirmed in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday.
“As we work through this transition, our businesses are continuing their operations as normal,” the company added.
Al Futtaim, who died in December, rose from working as a bank clerk to creating a $16bn business empire.
The Al Futtaim family’s business empire dates back to the 1930s, when Dubai remained a small pearling village before the discovery of oil in what would become the United Arab Emirates. Al Futtaim was a family trading company allied with the city-state’s ruling Al Maktoum family.
Over the decades, it became a trusted partner with foreign brands seeking business, such as Toyota in 1955. Other car manufacturers followed, as did retail brands.
His eponymous company has more than two dozen malls across the region, including VOX Cinemas and 29 malls in the Middle East. That includes Dubai’s iconic Mall of the Emirates, which boasts an indoor ski slope, penguin viewings and other experiences in blasting subzero temperatures year-round.
The company also became a franchisee of the French hypermarket chain Carrefour. It now runs more than 300 Carrefour-branded supermarkets and hypermarkets across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
A previous family feud between Majid Al Futtaim and his cousin, Abdullah, required Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to step in to resolve it in the early 2000s.
In announcing his death in December, Al Maktoum described Al Futtaim as one of Dubai’s “most important merchants”.
“May God have mercy on our brother Majid Al Futtaim, the creative businessman, and one of Dubai’s most important merchants and senior men,” wrote Al Maktoum.
“His last decision was to hire 3,000 citizens. May God have mercy on him and place him in his spacious gardens,” he added.
Forbes estimates Al Futtaim’s net worth as more than $4bn. Bloomberg puts his worth at more than $6bn.