Serial Novel “The Sorrows” - December 11

Yes, I remember doing business in Saudi Arabia.

So much oil, so much money. How could anyone forget?

Starting the week on a Sunday took a little getting used to. The complete and utter lack of women in any senior positions was also quite alarming. What can you expect in an absolute monarchy where the Qur'an and the Sunnah make up the country’s constitution?

All that talk of business and political stability. Until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud rounded up 200 of the country’s wealthiest businessmen and placed them under house arrest in The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Bound and tortured them at gunpoint until they transferred billions of dollars into his accounts. A royal purge under those glittering chandeliers.

Even his relatives weren’t safe. Especially the cousins. Lesser princes were also arrested without due process. The money or your life. All under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign.

And the favourite son became king in everything but name, revered by the people. Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud - colloquially known by his initials MBS - and now officially Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia. As well as chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and chairman of the Council of Political and Security Affairs. I’ve noticed his taken to adding HRH to the head of his title and name. How very British.

He now holds the entire country in his hands. And he’s only thirty-seven years old. Quite the high achiever. Happy to kill anyone that gets in his way. Dissect anything that thwarts his regional and global ambitions.

The Neom project you’re pitching for is outrageous. A new royal state created around a thin 170km-long vertical megacity that slices the desert from the Red Sea to the distant mountains. Sheathed in mirrored glass like an invisible line. Unlimited budget, unlimited power.

An entire economic zone meant to ultimately house nine million people, partly financed through a flotation expected in 2024. Hell, I might move there if my country place here doesn’t work out. Michael told me what some of the fees for service have been so far for other firms. Looks like you’ll be buying another Bentley or three if you get the account.

Of course, Edelman, Ruder Finn and Nicolla Hewitt Communications are all at the trough. But none have your experience, your charm. We all know how much the Saudis love that British deference.

Klaus Kleinfeld is no longer running things. Nadhmi al-Nasr is now the chief executive. He keeps a loaded gun under his desk, said he’d shoot whoever in the comms team was responsible for a cancelled sponsorship deal after some bad press about Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues. Fighting fire with gunfire, right.

It’s ridiculous that Saudi Arabia is still the world's biggest crude oil exporter. Salt flats, gravel plains and endless sand dunes. Inhospitable geography with untold wealth bubbling below the surface. Pumping out twelve million barrels of oil a day. Billions more to come.

Did you know we’ve released as much C02 into the atmosphere in the last thirty years as in the last thirty thousand? We’ve known about global warming for decades. We’ve had twenty-seven years of United Nations climate change conferences where everyone agrees we have to do something, we must do something. And we’ve done exactly nothing.

Protocols, accords, agreements, pacts. All worthless as emissions and temperatures continue to rise.

No meaningful action whatsoever. Fiddling while the world burns. It’s shameful.

Yesterday thousands of dead seals washed up on the Russian coasts of the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water. They died of hypoxia, oxygen deprivation caused by energy conglomerates extracting gas from the lakebed.

Everything is on fire, everything is dying. And we no longer seem to care. We have the barrel of the handgun pressed into the side of our heads and we keep pulling the trigger, faster and faster. It’s madness.

Every corporation seems to be gearing up for a worldwide recession next year. Which has always been good for our business. All the internal comms teams get shredded first and corporations suddenly realise they have to outsource all their PR.

Morgan Stanley has already axed 1,600 jobs. Layoffs and hiring freezes are extending beyond the tech industry. It will ripple through banking then aviation then infrastructure then manufacturing then transport then retail. Ever thus.

No doubt you’ll be looking to make some staff cuts at the firm. Need to operate more efficiently, lessons learned from Covid, challenging business environment, readjusting sizing and footprint, all the usual caveats. I’m sure the press release is already written.

Back here in Australia, there have been a few hiccups moving into my city townhouse. Legal issues with the existing tenants. So I’m still in the hotel. Buffet breakfast on Level 35 is becoming more depressing by the day.

I’m supposed to be visiting my county place sometime this week. Firming up a time with the architect.

It will be great to get out of the hotel, out of the city.

Be great to see the progress so far.

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