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The Key Man

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Arif Naqvi was charismatic, inspiring, and self-made—all the qualities of a successful business leader. The founder of Abraaj, a Dubai-based private-equity firm, Naqvi was the Key Man to the global elite searching for impact investments to make money and do good. He persuaded politicians he could help stabilize the Middle East after 9/11 by providing jobs and guided execut Arif Naqvi was charismatic, inspiring, and self-made—all the qualities of a successful business leader. The founder of Abraaj, a Dubai-based private-equity firm, Naqvi was the Key Man to the global elite searching for impact investments to make money and do good. He persuaded politicians he could help stabilize the Middle East after 9/11 by providing jobs and guided executives to opportunities in cities they struggled to find on the map. Bill Gates helped him start a $1 billion fund to improve healthcare in poor countries and the UN and Interpol appointed him to boards. As Pope Francis blessed a move to harness capitalism for the good of the poor, Naqvi won the support of Obama’s administration and investors, who compared him to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. In 2018, Simon Clark and Will Louch were contacted by an anonymous whistleblower who said Naqvi had swindled investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and offered bribes to sustain his billionaire lifestyle. Digging into the claims, Clark and Louch uncovered hundreds of documents and exposed the wrongdoing. In April 2019—months after their exposé broke—Naqvi was arrested on charges of fraud and racketeering, and faces up to 291 years in jail.  Populated by a cast of larger-than-life characters and moving across Asia, Africa, Europe and America, The Key Man is the story of how the global elite was duped by a capitalist fairytale. Clark and Louch shine a light on efforts to clean up global capital flows even as opaque private equity firms amass trillions of dollars and offshore tax havens cast a veil of secrecy which prevents regulators, investors and citizens from understanding what’s really going on in the finance industry. 


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Arif Naqvi was charismatic, inspiring, and self-made—all the qualities of a successful business leader. The founder of Abraaj, a Dubai-based private-equity firm, Naqvi was the Key Man to the global elite searching for impact investments to make money and do good. He persuaded politicians he could help stabilize the Middle East after 9/11 by providing jobs and guided execut Arif Naqvi was charismatic, inspiring, and self-made—all the qualities of a successful business leader. The founder of Abraaj, a Dubai-based private-equity firm, Naqvi was the Key Man to the global elite searching for impact investments to make money and do good. He persuaded politicians he could help stabilize the Middle East after 9/11 by providing jobs and guided executives to opportunities in cities they struggled to find on the map. Bill Gates helped him start a $1 billion fund to improve healthcare in poor countries and the UN and Interpol appointed him to boards. As Pope Francis blessed a move to harness capitalism for the good of the poor, Naqvi won the support of Obama’s administration and investors, who compared him to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. In 2018, Simon Clark and Will Louch were contacted by an anonymous whistleblower who said Naqvi had swindled investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and offered bribes to sustain his billionaire lifestyle. Digging into the claims, Clark and Louch uncovered hundreds of documents and exposed the wrongdoing. In April 2019—months after their exposé broke—Naqvi was arrested on charges of fraud and racketeering, and faces up to 291 years in jail.  Populated by a cast of larger-than-life characters and moving across Asia, Africa, Europe and America, The Key Man is the story of how the global elite was duped by a capitalist fairytale. Clark and Louch shine a light on efforts to clean up global capital flows even as opaque private equity firms amass trillions of dollars and offshore tax havens cast a veil of secrecy which prevents regulators, investors and citizens from understanding what’s really going on in the finance industry. 

30 review for The Key Man

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

    A well-researched and well-written account explaining the rise and fall of one of the largest private equity funds in the world, Abraaj, founded by Arif Navqi, in the heyday of globalization in the 2000's and early 2010's all the way to its undoing and the recent London court ruling in 2021. As of this writing, Arif Navqi is sitting at his home in Kensington, London, with an ankle monitor, awaiting extradition to the United States. Simon Clark and Will Louch, two British journalists, have writte A well-researched and well-written account explaining the rise and fall of one of the largest private equity funds in the world, Abraaj, founded by Arif Navqi, in the heyday of globalization in the 2000's and early 2010's all the way to its undoing and the recent London court ruling in 2021. As of this writing, Arif Navqi is sitting at his home in Kensington, London, with an ankle monitor, awaiting extradition to the United States. Simon Clark and Will Louch, two British journalists, have written an engrossing page-turner, though at times it is hard to keep up with all of the relationships that Arif 'cultivated' for his own purposes. Then there's also the numerous accounting tricks, loan requests, etc. that Arif and his finance team managed to pull off to camouflage gaping holes in the funds at key moments as when for example, financial auditors came to audit the books. One of the things the book managed to do was it made me look at the annual World Economic Forum event at Davos differently: the authors do not hold back in harping on the fact that this gathering of the global elite meet to discuss pressing world issues when most of the time those directly affected (the poor, the disadvantaged, for eg) are not even in attendance. They liken it to a bunch of men meeting to discuss how to improve gender equality. It is hard to disagree with that analogy. But the annual Davos event was a favorite of Arif. He paid millions of dollars each year to be at the Forum so that he could hobnob with the elite. And he was quite excellent in networking and building relationships. He had a strong stage presence, and often managed to land himself high-profile spots sitting next to the likes of Richard Branson and Bill Gates onstage as keynote speakers, thereby further burnishing his image. He was smart and highly educated. But he funded his billionaire lifestyle with the money that investors poured into his private equity fund. He repeatedly touted the importance of 'doing good while making a profit' and that it was possible to strive for this; this repeated mantra of his at Davos and other global summits shook the global elite and roused them to give his company millions of dollars to manage and it worked because it spoke to the innate desire (or perhaps guilt) of the rich and powerful to feel good about doing good while making a profit. Arif was adamant that the Western elite should not call many parts of Africa and the Middle East as 'emerging markets', which was patronizing, but as 'global growth markets' and that the world should start paying more attention to these important markets which have millions of consumers and would provide great returns to investors. He managed to brush aside deep-seated (and not unfounded) concerns from the media, academia or investors, around political instability or endemic corruption in many countries in the Middle East and Africa. Arif was well-positioned to talk about this part of the world as he was educated at the London School of Economics, was from Pakistan and set up his business in Dubai; he was the bridge between the West and the 'global growth markets' as he liked to call the part of the world that he wanted to help in concrete ways. He did have a good and noteworthy vision of marrying money from the rich world to benefit the parts of the world that needed it like hospitals in Kenya or Ghana, for example. But he suffered from severe self-delusion and narcissistic personality disorder (it does not take a psychologist to see this) and a few of his acquaintances/friends mentioned in the beginning of the book eventually severed ties with him, having recognized Arif's darker and more disturbing side. And of course, several ex-employees of Abraaj did not want to be identified in the book for fear of reprisal: one example is of a young Indian analyst who joined Abraaj only to quit soon after because he was humiliated in front of the rest of the staff at a company party when Arif told him to take off his shirt, undershirt and tie and threw those pieces over the balcony of a high-rise, sort of like testing the loyalty of this poor newcomer. It was a truly disturbing account to read. High-profile, well-known investors in the fund included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, (which invested $100 million in Abraaj), the Washington State Investment Board (apparently "one of the world's largest and most experienced investors in private equity fund" which made a $250 million investment in Abraaj), the CDC (the Colonial Development Corporation founded in 1948 by the Labour party in Britain), etc. A seminal moment in the book occurs when Andrew Farnum, who managed $2 billion at the Gates Foundation smelled something fishy in late 2017 as he was puzzled by Abraaj's repeated requests for money for the fund "when the firm didn't appear to be using the cash he'd already sent them." I view Farnum as the hero in this whole story because he seemed to be the only one (well, at least the only one mentioned as such in the book) who took the extra time to ask Abraaj just a few more questions, make a few more phone calls, and to prod just a bit more than the other investors into how their money was being used and to ask for something as simple as Abraaj's bank statements over a time period (not rocket science, right?). Farnum was conducing basic due diligence, something that should have been done more thoroughly BEFORE putting money down, but by the time Gates Foundation had made the investment, Arif had acquired a perfect veneer of credibility, integrity, reliability, and an 'excellent track record' that it became impossible to believe any wrongdoing was going on behind the scenes at Abraaj. And from here the unraveling begins. If you like what I call "non-fiction white collar crime thrillers" such as Dark Towers (by David Enrich, about Deutsche Bank); Bad Blood (about Theranos/Elizabeth Holmes; I have not read it yet but I know a few people who finished it in a day or two because they just couldn't put it down); Billion Dollar Whale (about the Malaysia 1MDB scandal); or Black Edge (about SAC and Steven Cohen, and which I have read and thought it quite good), then you probably will like this book also.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Semiotic Fluid

    read an early draft, refreshingly original plot, unassuming semi-professional ping pong player Yang Lin, travels into future to battle rampant capitalism and beasts from the void. bit sloppy, mostly incoherent and the basilisk destroying half of Karachi at the end was just ridiculous. 5/5 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Umaymah

    10 stars out of 5. This books reminds me of why I ever thought I could be a journalist and why I'm glad I didn't become one because I doubt if I would have had enough courage that weighs the small toe of either of the authors! Talk about tenacity? As I continued to read, at a point i felt these were white boys out to pull down a successful brown capitalist, the frequent references of "the boy from Karachi" grated my nerves and sounded condescending to me, however in the end Mr Navqi's greed, bul 10 stars out of 5. This books reminds me of why I ever thought I could be a journalist and why I'm glad I didn't become one because I doubt if I would have had enough courage that weighs the small toe of either of the authors! Talk about tenacity? As I continued to read, at a point i felt these were white boys out to pull down a successful brown capitalist, the frequent references of "the boy from Karachi" grated my nerves and sounded condescending to me, however in the end Mr Navqi's greed, bullish recklessness and his inability to accept the consequences of his actions convinced me that he was just another con man looking for his big payday. I've always suspected and judged people who cannot hide their love for wealth while ostensibly wanting to help poor people- it's a failing of mine which I've yet to be proven wrong upon. As the authors say on page 291, ...Mr Navqi wanted to dispel a negative stereotype about corruption in Pakistan and other developing countries but his actions may have ended up reinforcing it. This is about the most damning sentence in the book- that another brown or black business man might never be given a chance to do good because Mr Navqi's race has tainted that possibility for others.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alok Kejriwal

    A staggering book by Simon Clark. A non-stop read that makes your head spin and your heart beat faster and faster. The story of the rise, rise, rise and then complete collapse of the Abraaj Group (Dubai). What makes this book so compelling? - A story that PROVES that fairy tales DO come alive. This is the stuff movies are made of. - Hard, compelling, repeated proof points of how 'risk and rewards' work out in the exhilarating world of entrepreneurship. - The most important aspect of this book (like A staggering book by Simon Clark. A non-stop read that makes your head spin and your heart beat faster and faster. The story of the rise, rise, rise and then complete collapse of the Abraaj Group (Dubai). What makes this book so compelling? - A story that PROVES that fairy tales DO come alive. This is the stuff movies are made of. - Hard, compelling, repeated proof points of how 'risk and rewards' work out in the exhilarating world of entrepreneurship. - The most important aspect of this book (like many others of this 'rise & fall genre) is the FINE line between Success (good), Super success (desirable) and 'Too good to be true' Success that almost ALWAYS comes with a dark side & corruption of morals & ethics. - Insights, stories, quotes! Examples: - “You could not have designed a more troubled company if you had set your mind to it" (Karachi Electric) - He (Jeffrey Skoll) became a billionaire by selling eBay shares and used the cash to fund his dream of inspiring people to help humanity. - How super luxury boats are sold : "The salesman usually got on well with his super-rich clients because, smart as they were, they considered building a boat for family and friends a pleasant activity, not a locking of horns and a battle to prove who was the best dealmaker." - How Bill Gates got inspired to start his charity drive: "The African (Honeymoon) holiday sparked a burning curiosity in Bill and Melinda. Why were there such extremes of inequality in the world? What caused poverty? How big was the problem, and did it really have to be like this? Walking on a beach on the African island of Zanzibar, they resolved to pour billions of dollars into an attempt to end poverty." A must-read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abdul

    Arif Naqvi comes from the long line of disgraced Pakistani moneymen, including but not limited to Raza Ali Abedi and Muhammad Ali Khan/MAK. Compared to Abedi’s BCCI or MAK’s mafia connections, Naqvi sang the gospel of impact investing, doing good while making profit, and hobnobbing with famous people like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Richard Branson. His private equity fund, Abraaj, started off as an ambitious middle east based fund buying or financing companies in conflict-ridden areas. Despite Arif Naqvi comes from the long line of disgraced Pakistani moneymen, including but not limited to Raza Ali Abedi and Muhammad Ali Khan/MAK. Compared to Abedi’s BCCI or MAK’s mafia connections, Naqvi sang the gospel of impact investing, doing good while making profit, and hobnobbing with famous people like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Richard Branson. His private equity fund, Abraaj, started off as an ambitious middle east based fund buying or financing companies in conflict-ridden areas. Despite its shiny exterior, culture inside Abraaj was more like a cult. Naqvi used some of Abraaj’s early successes to find money from western governments and foundations to bet on companies in the MENA (Middle east and north Africa) region without doing due diligence. In the meanwhile, he spent lavishly on himself and his family, siphoning monies into Cayman Island bank accounts. Eventually, this vicious cycle came to an end when Abraaj’s financial wizards couldn’t pilfer enough of their investors money in a scheme that would make Bernie Maddoff proud. Arif Naqvi said all the right things in front of the ‘right people’ (i.e. rich white people) about investing in poor countries. But that was all a facade. An overly optimistic person may say that Naqvi’s heart was in the right place and things outside his control brought him to embezzle money, but i don’t buy that argument. Naqvi’s outward confidence and bravado masked the rotten state of Abraaj and he cared more about optics than reality, similar to Adam Neumann at WeWork. He spent millions of dollars to attend Davos every year to sell his Kool Aid to wealthy patrons. The chutzpah and hubris of Arif Naqvi led to not just this book but another, more pro-Abraaj one which takes the overly optimistic route and absolves Naqvi of all his sins because of ‘imperialist conspiracy’. As for the quality of writing in ‘The Key Man’, it could have been a lot better. Maybe I’m spoiled after reading a lot of Patrick Radden Keefe.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dipo Okuribido

    In a sense this is 2 books. As a summary of the details of what happened at Abraaj, this is clearly well researched. The story is also quite interesting and fascinating and the writers must be credited for bringing it out. Beyond that though, the second book is the narrative that’s woven around it, which is just atrocious on so many levels. Almost all of the attempts to dip the details into a context fails. Even if he spoke about it a lot Naqvi is hardly the poster child for impact investing or t In a sense this is 2 books. As a summary of the details of what happened at Abraaj, this is clearly well researched. The story is also quite interesting and fascinating and the writers must be credited for bringing it out. Beyond that though, the second book is the narrative that’s woven around it, which is just atrocious on so many levels. Almost all of the attempts to dip the details into a context fails. Even if he spoke about it a lot Naqvi is hardly the poster child for impact investing or the founder of shared value or any of those ideas. His troubles don’t really prove or justify drawing any conclusions about that. Would also have been interesting to unpack other parts of the story. How come there was so little control, how did auditors miss the corruption for so long? Valuation is rarely a science, we’re they forging accounts or applying strange multiples? As long as the story is, it’s filled with a lot of unnecessary details. Why do we need to know that the lawyer’s brother works at the same firm with the brother of David Cameron or that people who made a bid for Abraaj were associated with Obama? Interesting stories aren’t pursued while we are peppered with random details constantly. Every few pages a fee or an expense is compared to average incomes in developing countries. Only the writers know why that is necessary. At some point they insinuate that the Head of IFC goes against his team and approves a commitment to an Abraaj Fund but of course they don’t discuss the angle of corruption there. I think the worst part of the book is the epilogue where somehow a push for lower taxes in the US is linked with low tax revenues in Pakistan. Overall an interesting insight into how Abraaj happened and worth reading for that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ziad Daoud

    This gripping tale of the rise and fall of Abraaj has lessons for elsewhere: (1) Clear thinking can foresee trouble so don’t be fooled by the smokescreen of baseless numbers, grand rhetoric and endorsement from the rich and famous. (2) Criticising Abraaj’s scam doesn’t equal to opposition to investing in less developed parts of the world or philanthropy. (3) Beware of glitzy poverty-reduction initiatives marketed by billionaires and highly-paid consultants announced in exclusive five-star hotels This gripping tale of the rise and fall of Abraaj has lessons for elsewhere: (1) Clear thinking can foresee trouble so don’t be fooled by the smokescreen of baseless numbers, grand rhetoric and endorsement from the rich and famous. (2) Criticising Abraaj’s scam doesn’t equal to opposition to investing in less developed parts of the world or philanthropy. (3) Beware of glitzy poverty-reduction initiatives marketed by billionaires and highly-paid consultants announced in exclusive five-star hotels or Davos where not a single poor person is attending.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ishaan Ahuja

    A quick interesting fun read. The forensic side and linking the dots is very interesting. Where it lets itself down is the overly sanctimonious equivalences like comparing a business flight cost (hardly a surprise for any average corporate) to the median wage of Pakistani workers - am sure the WSJ local lunch place is X times the Pakistani equivalent too, and the blanket dismissal of impact investing. The last sentence of the book is truly Disney and not in a good way. For a better articulated c A quick interesting fun read. The forensic side and linking the dots is very interesting. Where it lets itself down is the overly sanctimonious equivalences like comparing a business flight cost (hardly a surprise for any average corporate) to the median wage of Pakistani workers - am sure the WSJ local lunch place is X times the Pakistani equivalent too, and the blanket dismissal of impact investing. The last sentence of the book is truly Disney and not in a good way. For a better articulated criticque on corporates doing good try: Winners Take All. Would have been better with more details on the actual fraud and chronology so for example had to go back through to try and figure out when the first improper transfer happened as the book jumps around quite a bit. Still a page Turner nonetheless.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    How to con Bill Gates? 1. Grow up in elite Post colonial high school in Pakistan, be ambitious 2. Study in London School of Economics 3. Go to the Middle East and do well in an investment firm 4. Open up a fund with friends 5. Have early success flipping companies, taking risk after 9-11, buying companies on the cheap. 6. Turn around Karachi Electric 7. Pay millions to attend World Economic Forum 8. Preach about Impact Investing to the Davos crowd 9. Have billionaire friends, and live a billionaire lif How to con Bill Gates? 1. Grow up in elite Post colonial high school in Pakistan, be ambitious 2. Study in London School of Economics 3. Go to the Middle East and do well in an investment firm 4. Open up a fund with friends 5. Have early success flipping companies, taking risk after 9-11, buying companies on the cheap. 6. Turn around Karachi Electric 7. Pay millions to attend World Economic Forum 8. Preach about Impact Investing to the Davos crowd 9. Have billionaire friends, and live a billionaire lifestyle, even if it means taking money from funds that are supposed to be used to be invested. Transfer some into own account as well Unfortunately, investing in the emerging markets is inherently risky. So when the promised 17% yearly return is not forthcoming, the deck of cards started crumbling. Why did the elites believe him? Because they want to believe that one can invest in poor countries and help the poor and earn high returns, all at the same time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    M.S. Subramanian

    Poorly written account that appears to have East vs West overtones. Please skip reading this account to save time

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paperclippe

    Nonfiction is one of my favorite genres (has a more broad or sweeping statement every been made?) I think because the straightforwardness of the writing style of a good investigative piece is an excellent chaser to my other favorite genres, those of the New Weird and hard science-fiction, two places where straightforward writing is very often hard to come by. But... you ever read something that's a little... too? straightforward? This book really failed to pull me in. I mean, I got through it, s Nonfiction is one of my favorite genres (has a more broad or sweeping statement every been made?) I think because the straightforwardness of the writing style of a good investigative piece is an excellent chaser to my other favorite genres, those of the New Weird and hard science-fiction, two places where straightforward writing is very often hard to come by. But... you ever read something that's a little... too? straightforward? This book really failed to pull me in. I mean, I got through it, sure, and I'm glad I did, but the whole time I didn't feel like I was reading a story. I felt like I was reading a report, something quickly compiled to outline a situation. Moreover, I felt like I was reading an internal report where I was supposed to have some kind of background knowledge on the intricacies of international private equity, and as a person with just over $1,000 in my savings account, I profoundly do not have that knowledge. I would read whole paragraphs, whole chapters, and I could tell what I was reading was supposed to be an articulation of a major financial crime, but I would get to the end of the sentence or paragraph or page and just blink a little and think, "huh," and keep on reading. Nothing really hit me. Nothing really had an impact. Nothing financial, anyway, which is the crux of the narrative. The human rights violations and egregious spending I could wrap my head around, but that didn't end up being the point of the story. It seems like the authors were kind of aware of this, because early on they used a technique where they would say something like "x thousands of dollars were moved from fund abc to fund xyz, which the average Pakistani/Kenyan/Nigerian would take xxxx years to earn," and the first time that little device was employed, I really, really appreciated it. And the second. And the third. And then I was 75% into the book and that was still the only device used to reinforce the egregious nature of the financial crimes being committed and I literally made a note in my Kindle that read "YES WE GET IT THESE PEOPLE ARE RICH AND THE PEOPLE THAT ARE BEING STOLEN FROM ARE VERY POOR." It's literally the only emotional hook in the whole book boy is it exhausting. There were also extremely jarring shifts in tone where I would say a good 90% of the book is told from a dispassionate third person, and then all of a sudden the authors will say, "...and then we..." or take some other hard right turn into first person plural and I would literally have to page back a good few percent to make sure I wasn't missing some other introduction or acknowledgement of involvement, but no, I never was. I get that Clark and Louch did a lot of the investigating and reporting themselves, but the majority of this book is told completely from an outside perspective and then all of a sudden it's trying to be Bad Blood. And let me tell you, reader, Bad Blood it is not. I hate capitalism. I hate capitalism as much as - okay, probably a lot more than the next guy. And while Clark and Louch have a hell of a story on their hands, the way they tell it could use some work, because by the end, except for the brief stint of courtroom drama in the last ten or so percent, I just... didn't care. I hesitate to give less than three stars because I do feel like this is worth a read, but this is worth a read in the way that checking your credit score is worth doing: you'll come away with a lot of valuable financial information that you'll have no real idea how to use in your everyday life, or even how to know exactly what it means.

  12. 5 out of 5

    KO

    The rise and fall of Arif Naqvi is fascinating, but I found this book a bit wanting. First, the story itself: The basic story is as old as stories go - man does well, gets delusions of granduer and tries to live way above his station, and in doing so falls all the way down to earth. The really sad thing in the whole story is that initially Arif Naqvi was good at investing - not great, but good enough - which is why so many of the names mentioned daily in the FT invested in his funds, but fund man The rise and fall of Arif Naqvi is fascinating, but I found this book a bit wanting. First, the story itself: The basic story is as old as stories go - man does well, gets delusions of granduer and tries to live way above his station, and in doing so falls all the way down to earth. The really sad thing in the whole story is that initially Arif Naqvi was good at investing - not great, but good enough - which is why so many of the names mentioned daily in the FT invested in his funds, but fund managers work hard for their cut and most of them never become as rich as their investors. If you are worth 40-60 million dollars, don't try to live like a multi-billionaire and end up eating your clients money because you are delusional enough to think you will make billions any day now. It is especially tragic that Arif Naqvi failed, becuase it does seem that he had enough good ideas that in a actual fund where people worked to do make their investments better instead of just living the jetset life, enough would have worked out to effect the world for the better. 3 stars: There is a bit too much moralizing and not enough finance thoughout the book. Similar books about other financiers who crashed and burned tell more and let you make your own judgements. When you're talking about ppl managing billions of dollars its besides the point to keep emphasizing that they spend money on travel and expensive dinners, and to keep comparing the cost of hosting a prime minster to dinner to the yearly income of 20 poor ppl or whatever. Didn't want to bring up the racism word, but in the dozens of other similar books about white financiers, this doesn't happend after every few pages. You don't learn much about Abraaj and how it did stuff - too much of the detail about Abraaj in the book is basically a summary of Arif's numerous speeches around the world. I feel the journalists hit upon a super hot story - that a big PE fund was a failing, and concentrated all their firepower into getting out that story. This book - is just an extended version of that, and doesn't do the actual rise any justice, and thus misses out on an exciting story. Abraaj invested in the developing world - which is where obviously a good chunk of the story happened, but the authors spend most of the book following Arif from one Davos conference to the next.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Afnan Alam

    The Key Man, a pacy and deeply reported tale, Simon Clark and Will Louch say the dramatic fall of the grace of Arif Naqvi - the man behind the rise and fall of Impact Investing Firm “Abraaj”. The authors are Wall Street Journal reporters who first broke the news of investors’ concerns about Naqvi’s Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj in February 2018 and went on to publish a series of hard-hitting stories. Abraaj claimed it was making 17.9 per cent annual returns for its investors, an impressiv The Key Man, a pacy and deeply reported tale, Simon Clark and Will Louch say the dramatic fall of the grace of Arif Naqvi - the man behind the rise and fall of Impact Investing Firm “Abraaj”. The authors are Wall Street Journal reporters who first broke the news of investors’ concerns about Naqvi’s Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj in February 2018 and went on to publish a series of hard-hitting stories. Abraaj claimed it was making 17.9 per cent annual returns for its investors, an impressive figure. But “the numbers were fiction”, the book’s authors write. Aside from the alleged fraud, the tale reveals how easily the world’s wealthy business and political leaders have built a consensus around the idea of “impact investing” that Naqvi rose to prominence by championing. Many billionaires and chief executives still claim they can make money while making the world a better place, Clark and Louch write. “Solving poverty by raising taxes for governments to spend on healthcare and education wasn’t a popular idea with billionaires or their advisers,” they note. There is little in the book to reassure readers that, elsewhere in the $4tn private equity industry, which now controls growing portions of workers’ pensions, executives’ claims face much more scrutiny. Among the authors’ concluding thoughts is a call to action: “If accountants and regulators can’t keep private equity firms on the right track when more people are going to have to take an interest in how they operate.” It is an important message. But in a world where much power is concentrated in the hands of buyout groups and their wealthy executives, who often avoid the limelight or seek to control the flow of information, it might be not easy to bring about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trudy Zufelt

    I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway which led me to a world of private equity funds, philanthropy and greed which I've never really been interested in until now. Arif Naqvi comes from a well off family in Karachi, Pakistan. After completing his high school education, he leaves Paksitan to study abroad in London where he discovers his well off life pales in comparison to others at the school. He starts an investment firm and purchases the first leveraged buyout worth millions in the I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway which led me to a world of private equity funds, philanthropy and greed which I've never really been interested in until now. Arif Naqvi comes from a well off family in Karachi, Pakistan. After completing his high school education, he leaves Paksitan to study abroad in London where he discovers his well off life pales in comparison to others at the school. He starts an investment firm and purchases the first leveraged buyout worth millions in the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa. Soon Arif sets his sights higher and convinces investors to entrust their money in his Araabj Group equity firm with the promise of high returns. It's not just the high rate of return that attracts big money into Arif's businesses, it's also his promise to use his profits to do good in the world. He sets up a non-profit trust in Pakistan to help the poor with healthcare and promises to expand this to other poor and emerging companies. His smooth talk and philanthropy scores him an inside deal with the Gates Foundation and other big names. Behind the fascinating success of Arif and Araabj, the reader learns a dark truth from meticulous investigation. Arif and his loyalists have funneled money from one fund to another and eventually ending up in a bank in the Cayman islands all while Arif lives a lavish lifestyle. A riveting true tale of how the greed of capitalism can destroy to good that could have been. A well researched and written account that left me searching on the internet to find out what Arif Naqvi is doing today and whether or not his extradition to the United States has happened.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Usman

    I decided to read this book after reading a review by The Economist in July and picked up a copy from Amazon soon as it became available in the UAE. The book gives you everything you expect from an expose´. It begins with Arif Naqvi’s life in Karachi and his ambitious outlook in life that eventually led him to run Abraaj Capital that managed PE funds worth staggering 14 billion dollars at its peak. Though an otherwise astute investor, he failed to adhere to one of the basic edicts of asset managem I decided to read this book after reading a review by The Economist in July and picked up a copy from Amazon soon as it became available in the UAE. The book gives you everything you expect from an expose´. It begins with Arif Naqvi’s life in Karachi and his ambitious outlook in life that eventually led him to run Abraaj Capital that managed PE funds worth staggering 14 billion dollars at its peak. Though an otherwise astute investor, he failed to adhere to one of the basic edicts of asset management business, that never mingle investors' money with your own. Money from various funds was routinely used to pay for firm’s as well as Arif’s personal expenses. And with his extravagant lifestyle, these amounted to millions of dollars. His frequent visits to the World Economic Forum and other such exclusive jamborees allowed him to brush shoulders with the titans of capitalism and politics - Bill Gates, Richard Brason, John Kerry, to name a few. All this amplified his image to attract investors, who dropped their guards dazzled by his public avatar. As a professional, the biggest lesson for me is that there is no alternative to a thorough due diligence when it comes to investing or lending. No matter how big the name, the basic questions should never be ignored. The Economist puts it perfectly, “with money, as with missiles, trust but verify.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Business and authors Simon Clark and Will Louch for providing me with an ARC of The Key Man. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. As someone who reads true crime and nonfiction regularly, this book lands perfectly in my wheelhouse. I was riveted by the story of Arif Naqvi , a charismatic businessman who charmed and duped hundreds of executives, government agencies, entrepreneurs, politicians, moguls, and world class institutions using his private equity fund as Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Business and authors Simon Clark and Will Louch for providing me with an ARC of The Key Man. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. As someone who reads true crime and nonfiction regularly, this book lands perfectly in my wheelhouse. I was riveted by the story of Arif Naqvi , a charismatic businessman who charmed and duped hundreds of executives, government agencies, entrepreneurs, politicians, moguls, and world class institutions using his private equity fund as a way to swindle hundreds of millions of dollars. By professing a business model of global growth, wealth & economic empowerment through philanthropy/capitalism, Arif was able to raise billions of dollars meant to aid companies in mostly third world countries where he could better the lives of the people who lived there but instead he used the money to support his lavish and extravagant lifestyle. Wall Street Journal reporters Simon Clark and Will Louch provide a vivid and detailed account of Arif’s humble rise to power, his ambitious plans and the slippery slope he constructed that eventually collapsed under the weight of his greed and ego. This book was fascinating and a true page turner.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    “The Key Man” is the true story of international financial fraud. The book is written by two reporters from the Wall Street Journal and tells the story of Arif Naqvi, a Pakistani businessman who ran a private equity firm. Naqvi told investors that they could make money by doing good - investing in projects in the developing world. He became a celebrity among the global elite, presenting himself as an expert in doing business in emerging markets. He used investors’ money to fund a lavish lifestyl “The Key Man” is the true story of international financial fraud. The book is written by two reporters from the Wall Street Journal and tells the story of Arif Naqvi, a Pakistani businessman who ran a private equity firm. Naqvi told investors that they could make money by doing good - investing in projects in the developing world. He became a celebrity among the global elite, presenting himself as an expert in doing business in emerging markets. He used investors’ money to fund a lavish lifestyle, and hid the fund’s massive losses from investors. The book is well researched and I found it to be a fascinating read about how fraudsters like Naqvi operate and fool people who should know better.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Pilz

    I just reviewed The Key Man by Simon Clark; Will Louch. #TheKeyMan #NetGalley https://www.netgalley.com/member/book... It seems to be in fashion to write about evil empires and financial frauds. This is the story of a middle eastern Bernie Madoff kind of fraud, not quite as big but still having an impact on the world - not a good one. The book seems to have been thoroughly researched and is overall an enjoyable true white collar crime story from a section of the world you otherwise do not hear mu I just reviewed The Key Man by Simon Clark; Will Louch. #TheKeyMan #NetGalley https://www.netgalley.com/member/book... It seems to be in fashion to write about evil empires and financial frauds. This is the story of a middle eastern Bernie Madoff kind of fraud, not quite as big but still having an impact on the world - not a good one. The book seems to have been thoroughly researched and is overall an enjoyable true white collar crime story from a section of the world you otherwise do not hear much about. If your inventory runs low this book category, I would consider adding it to your bag - or kindle.

  19. 4 out of 5

    M Moore

    A very well researched, well told story of how a charismatic, self-made business leader duped investors, bribed high-ranking officials and sacrificed the vision of what impact investments were supposed to be funding. This story is not a new one, unfortunately, but that doesn't stop this book from telling an interesting tale that seems like it should be the basis of a fictional movie plot. I struggled a bit to keep people and company names straight, but even with those minor confusions, I underst A very well researched, well told story of how a charismatic, self-made business leader duped investors, bribed high-ranking officials and sacrificed the vision of what impact investments were supposed to be funding. This story is not a new one, unfortunately, but that doesn't stop this book from telling an interesting tale that seems like it should be the basis of a fictional movie plot. I struggled a bit to keep people and company names straight, but even with those minor confusions, I understood the series of events perfectly. If you're a fan of nonfiction, I recommend this one! My reviews can also be viewed at www.instagram.com/justonemoorebook.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kamini Dandapani

    Vividly researched! The book provides unparalleled insights into the dark side of a psychopath- a non-pareil trickster with a brilliantly twisted mind in a truly international setting. A fraud who beguiled billionaires, powerful politicians and also the average Joe and Jane with his suave looks and mannerisms and polished language while enriching himself beyond the dreams of avarice and at the same time plundering the rich in the name of helping “growth markets” as he called it. Arid Naqvi is not Vividly researched! The book provides unparalleled insights into the dark side of a psychopath- a non-pareil trickster with a brilliantly twisted mind in a truly international setting. A fraud who beguiled billionaires, powerful politicians and also the average Joe and Jane with his suave looks and mannerisms and polished language while enriching himself beyond the dreams of avarice and at the same time plundering the rich in the name of helping “growth markets” as he called it. Arid Naqvi is not the first fraudster in the post internet era but he is one of a kind in that he comfortably straddled the rich of Davos and the marginalized of his home country: Pakistan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Leroux

    This is a great story that’s told in a way that feels rushed. Arif is a unique character who grows less interesting through the course of the book as the focus shifts away from him as a person and more on the absurdly corrupt circumstances he puts himself and his company in. The most interesting character is the Gates Foundation employee who single-handedly leads to the downfall of Abraaj, but even he is only given minimal focus across one or two chapters. The book moves a little too quickly to This is a great story that’s told in a way that feels rushed. Arif is a unique character who grows less interesting through the course of the book as the focus shifts away from him as a person and more on the absurdly corrupt circumstances he puts himself and his company in. The most interesting character is the Gates Foundation employee who single-handedly leads to the downfall of Abraaj, but even he is only given minimal focus across one or two chapters. The book moves a little too quickly to ever thoroughly address the fundamental questions it raises about addressing third world poverty through philanthropy. (3.5 out of 5)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hammad Malik

    Having worked for one of the company i.e. K Electric (a vertically integrated electric utility company of Karachi, Pakistan) that Abraaj capital owned, it was imperative for me to go through this book. An interesting story about the corporate greed involving the life & death of Abraaj Capital, the private equity firm that was behind K- Electric’s privatisation. An intriguing story about Arif Naqvi (Abraaj’s CEO), the typical well off Karachite who rose to the heights western dominated world to f Having worked for one of the company i.e. K Electric (a vertically integrated electric utility company of Karachi, Pakistan) that Abraaj capital owned, it was imperative for me to go through this book. An interesting story about the corporate greed involving the life & death of Abraaj Capital, the private equity firm that was behind K- Electric’s privatisation. An intriguing story about Arif Naqvi (Abraaj’s CEO), the typical well off Karachite who rose to the heights western dominated world to finance too quickly & perhaps by taking few short cuts in due course. Overall, the book is easy to read and it maintained the interest of the reader till the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    S Ravishankar

    The sordid saga of how a charismatic CEO of a Private Equity firm misled top investors and philanthropists of the world in a ponzi scheme with non-transparent accounting across funds and siphoned of billions of dollars to fund his lifestyle and those of his close associates. The tale reveals how most of his employees and associates participated and helped in the hoodwink of the larger public and regulators across the globe. Major brands in auditing, banks, pension funds were either caught nappin The sordid saga of how a charismatic CEO of a Private Equity firm misled top investors and philanthropists of the world in a ponzi scheme with non-transparent accounting across funds and siphoned of billions of dollars to fund his lifestyle and those of his close associates. The tale reveals how most of his employees and associates participated and helped in the hoodwink of the larger public and regulators across the globe. Major brands in auditing, banks, pension funds were either caught napping or chose to turn a blind eye. Truly amazing. It would be unbelievable if it were fiction ...

  24. 4 out of 5

    John R

    The Abraaj story is truly fascinating - and very complex, but in a sense, it almost writes itself. The authors do a good job of unwinding it for a general audience. However, there is a constant sanctimonious tone that is overdone. "Private equity - bad. Emerging markets - poor. Ergo, Abraaj ESPECIALLY bad!" Just an unneeded grinding axe thru an otherwise mostly good effort. And book is a bit sloppy at times - e.g., Penny Pritzker and her fortune from the HILTON hotel franchise?!? Harper Collins The Abraaj story is truly fascinating - and very complex, but in a sense, it almost writes itself. The authors do a good job of unwinding it for a general audience. However, there is a constant sanctimonious tone that is overdone. "Private equity - bad. Emerging markets - poor. Ergo, Abraaj ESPECIALLY bad!" Just an unneeded grinding axe thru an otherwise mostly good effort. And book is a bit sloppy at times - e.g., Penny Pritzker and her fortune from the HILTON hotel franchise?!? Harper Collins editors not at their best.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jad

    Another example of a charismatic, charming, passionate CEO who championed a real cause and made the whole world believe blindly in him. Key question that needs to be resolved is how all the parties that were supposed to monitor Abraaj financials missed this fraud or ignored it which makes them as criminally involved as Arif. We always brag about our company board members, reputable audit firms, best in class legal advisors and proud regulators… how can this myriad of parties fail to identify the Another example of a charismatic, charming, passionate CEO who championed a real cause and made the whole world believe blindly in him. Key question that needs to be resolved is how all the parties that were supposed to monitor Abraaj financials missed this fraud or ignored it which makes them as criminally involved as Arif. We always brag about our company board members, reputable audit firms, best in class legal advisors and proud regulators… how can this myriad of parties fail to identify these issues time and time again…

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Machata

    4.5 stars. Very well written expose authored by two Wall Street Journal writers detailing the criminally fraudulent behavior of Arif Nakqi, a Pakistani con man who convinced the world's moneyed elites that he could do good for the global poor while earning a profit. Sound too good to be true. It was. He stole $385 million and still lives in luxury while under house arrest in London. Sound too good to be true? Don't trust the ultra-wealthy- they look out for their own even swindlers. 4.5 stars. Very well written expose authored by two Wall Street Journal writers detailing the criminally fraudulent behavior of Arif Nakqi, a Pakistani con man who convinced the world's moneyed elites that he could do good for the global poor while earning a profit. Sound too good to be true. It was. He stole $385 million and still lives in luxury while under house arrest in London. Sound too good to be true? Don't trust the ultra-wealthy- they look out for their own even swindlers.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pankaj Pagarani

    I was mainly curious to read about Abraaj because I’m from Dubai and have followed it’s rise to a global PE powerhouse, and know some people who worked there. I doubt it’s an interesting story for anyone else though - just some stereotypical bankers participating in a good old Ponzi scheme. Otherwise, It’s an easy read - the chronology and sub plots could be made easier to follow though.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol Bean

    Well written and documented account of the build up and unraveling of Arif Naqvi. What struck me, despite, or perhaps because of, the frequent references to the dichotomy between his avowed purpose and the reality of the situation, I couldn’t help shaking my head in disappointment at what could have been, that his original goal wasn’t necessarily unattainable. It’s a good read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Josep Mitjà

    I enjoyed reading the book. I find that books written by journalists are enjoyable and easy to read. Like "Bad Blood"'s story of Theranos and Elisabeth Holmes I find fascinating how wrong doing spirals out of control. In a few occasions I found the book a little to patronising, when the writers try to make a point about their moral opinions about investing in developing countries. I enjoyed reading the book. I find that books written by journalists are enjoyable and easy to read. Like "Bad Blood"'s story of Theranos and Elisabeth Holmes I find fascinating how wrong doing spirals out of control. In a few occasions I found the book a little to patronising, when the writers try to make a point about their moral opinions about investing in developing countries.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gaurav

    Great read for anyone who knew and saw Abraaj’s dominance in the MEA PE space. Tragic how the initial goal of impact investing and creating a purpose gets left behind by greed. Abraaj could actually have been a global leader in what it set out to be

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