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Ride to fame

Ride to fame

The Abdul Latif Jameel Group, long a force to be reckoned with in the region’s auto dealership industry, is making considerable inroads farther afield, reports Trends magazine.

March 17, 2009 10:16 by

Patrick Samaha stood at a crossroads in 1997. The sprightly Lebanese teenager was in the final year of his graduation, and uncertain about job prospects in his home country. So he turned to his Saudi-based grandfather for advice. Samaha then joined him on a job hunt. When Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) Group offered him the position of marketing coordinator, he was told not to look any further. With names such Toyota, Lexus, Daihatsu, Akai, Acer and Toshiba under its belt and a well-established reputation built around automobile dealerships in Saudi Arabia, working for ALJ was a dream start for Samaha.

Even though he lasted only 15 months at ALJ, he has gone places since then. Today, Samaha is one of the top executives at Dubai-based Arab Media Group (AMG). Yet even 12 years later, he still remembers his ID number (6706) at ALJ and laments the day he chose to quit. Leaving was “the biggest regret of my life,” he says. But why is it such a big deal? “I would just say ALJ should be an example to other businesses and its competitors in the region,” he says. “It is a case study.”

While Samaha’s stint may have ended early, ALJ has become an example for more than 50 entrepreneurs and managers. It began with the vision of entrepreneur Sheikh Abdul Latif Jameel, who founded the Group in 1945. Ten years later, ALJ became the sole distributor of Toyota vehicles in Saudi Arabia. It was the beginning of a relationship that’s still going strong today. ALJ is now the largest independent Toyota distributor in the world, with revenues topping $3.3 billion annually and plans to invest 3.8 billion Saudi riyals ($1.01 billion) on its expansion and development projects over the next five years.

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