Wafic Rida Said is a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, the founder and Chairman of the Said Foundation, a non-sectarian and non-political charity which works for a brighter future for children in need and talented young people in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine and the founding benefactor of the Said Business School at Oxford University. Through his philanthropic donations of over £100 million he has helped around 750 talented students from the Middle East access an education that they could not otherwise afford and founded a world class business school which is building a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Wafic and Rosemary Said with Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten, and the Sheldon Medal. Wafic Said was one of the first two recipients of the University's highest award for philanthropy, given to recognise contributions that have made a significant strategic difference to the life and work of the University.
Wafic Said was born in Damascus, Syria in 1939. His father, Dr. Rida Saïd, was an eye surgeon who founded Syria’s first university in Damascus in 1923 and served as Minister for Higher Education during the late 1920s and 1930s.
Wafic Said trained as a banker in London before starting a career in 1963 at UBS in Geneva where he met his English wife Rosemary. After they married, Wafic Said left banking and moved to England. He wanted to start something new and entrepreneurial so went into the restaurant business, opening Caravanserai in Kensington High Street, which became a sought out London venue.
Wafic Said’s knowledge of the Arab world alerted him to the significant opportunities that existed in Saudi Arabia. He visited in 1969 and found a country that needed everything. He immediately saw an opportunity to get involved in construction and started a company specialising in turnkey construction projects. Just a few years later the oil price boom meant that Saudi Arabia had the means to invest comprehensively in its infrastructure. Wafic Said’s companies played a crucial role in building the airports, desalination plants, housing and hospitals which helped propel the Kingdom into the 21st century. This experience is one of the reasons so many Said Foundation scholarships are targeted at giving students the skills to help build a country.
As a result of his knowledge of Saudi Arabia, the British government sought Wafic Said's help to support what later became the biggest ever export contract in UK history, a British Aerospace contract (Al-Yamamah) which has brought over £40 billion of revenue into the UK, enabling an independent British aerospace industry to survive and prosper.
Since the 1980’s Wafic Said has focused on his investment business. In 1987 he started Said Holdings Limited, an investment company with assets in Europe, North America and the Far East. In 1995 he went on to co-found Sagitta Asset Management Limited, an international asset management business, subsequently acquired by Fleming Family & Partners.
In 1982 Wafic and Rosemary Said founded the Karim Rida Said Foundation (now the Said Foundation) which has concentrated on supporting talented young people from and children in need in the Middle East and on creating and developing an international business school at Oxford University. The Foundation has always been run on strictly non-sectarian and non-political lines and aims to make a lasting difference to people’s lives.
Wafic Said with Nelson Mandela at the opening of the Nelson Mandela lecture theatre at the Said Business School, Oxford, 2002