Wafic Rida Saïd is a businessman and philanthropist, the founder and Chairman of the Saïd Foundation, a non-sectarian and non-political charity which works for a brighter future for children in need and talented young people from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. He is the founding benefactor of the Saïd Business School at Oxford University, a world class business school which is educating a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. Wafic Saïd is also the founder of Saïd Holdings Limited, a privately-held international investment company.
Wafic Saïd 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 1926 and served as Minister for Higher Education during the late 1920s and 1930s.
Wafic Saïd started his career in 1963 training as a banker at UBS in Geneva where he met his English wife, Rosemary. After they married, Wafic Saïd left banking and moved to England to start a new venture. He opened two restaurants serving Middle Eastern cuisine in London in 1967, including the restaurant Caravanserai on Kensington High Street, which became a sought-after London venue. The restaurants were sold in 1969.
Wafic Saïd’s knowledge of the Arab world alerted him to the significant opportunities that existed in Saudi Arabia, following a visit in 1969. He saw an opportunity to help the country by becoming 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 large amounts in its infrastructure. Wafic Saïd’s companies played a crucial role in the 1970s and 1980s 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 Saïd Foundation scholarships are targeted at giving students the skills needed to help build a country.
As a result of his knowledge of Saudi Arabia, the British Government sought Wafic Saïd’s help to support what later became the largest export contract in UK history, a British Aerospace contract (Al-Yamamah) which has brought over £40 billion of revenue into the UK, helping an independent British aerospace industry to survive and prosper.
Since the 1980s, Wafic Saïd has focused on his investment and philanthropic activities. In 1987 he founded Saïd Holdings Limited (SHL), a privately-held international investment company with assets in Europe, North America and the Far East. SHL is the principal investment vehicle for the Saïd family interests and unites an entrepreneurial approach with the rigour of an institutional investor. SHL has a diversified portfolio of investments including quoted and unquoted securities, fixed income and real estate. The company has a longstanding relationship with London-based investment advisory firm, Capital Generation Partners. The SHL Board is Chaired by Michael Butt and the other Board Members are Preston Hutchings, Daniel Martineau, Stephen Galbraith, Heather Gray, Philip Seers and Charles Stauffer.
In 1995, Wafic Saïd co-founded Sagitta Asset Management Limited, an international asset management business, subsequently acquired by Fleming Family & Partners.
In 1982 Wafic and Rosemary Saïd founded the Karim Rida Saïd Foundation (renamed the Saïd Foundation in 2008) which has concentrated on supporting talented young people and children in need in the Middle East and on creating and developing an international business school at the University of Oxford. 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. Through his donations in excess of £100 million Wafic Saïd has helped approximately 1,150 talented students from the Middle East access an education that they could not otherwise afford.
Wafic Saïd has also donated to St Mary’s Hospital, The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation, Eton College, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as £250,000 to the victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. He is the founding donor of the Wafic Saïd Molecular Cardiology Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute.
Resident in Monaco, Wafic Saïd owns several international properties, including Tusmore Park in Oxfordshire, as well as homes in France and Spain. In 1991 he was granted Canadian citizenship.
Wafic Saïd is a recipient of the Sheldon Medal, awarded by the University of Oxford, a Foundation Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford and a holder of the Grand Commandeur Ordre de Mérite du Cèdre of Lebanon and Ordre de Mérite of Morocco.