The Key Man: The True Story of How the Global Elite Was Duped by a Capitalist Fairy Tale

Harper Business. Jul. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780062996213. $29.99. CRIME
Wall Street Journal reporters Clark and Louch chronicle the rise and fall of Arif Naqvi and his Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj. On the surface, Naqvi was the epitome of the adage that one can do well by doing good. He redefined emerging markets as impact investments, sold investors on his vision of helping people by investing, and hobnobbed with the elite, from Bill Gates to Princes Charles. And it worked—at first. Clark and Louch detail how Naqvi and his top executives started comingling funds to cover salaries and the exorbitant sums spent on parties and events. It didn’t take long for Abraaj to go from misusing funds to full-on fraud. Tipped off by an anonymous employee, the authors painstakingly dug up a trove of evidence, including falsified financial reports, company emails, and interviews with those few who would talk to them. Earlier, in 2017, a Gates Foundation investor also noticed that things weren’t adding up, and his inquiries led to an international investigation. Abraaj has since been shut down, Naqvi is awaiting extradition to the United States for trial, and one of his top executives has already pled guilty.
VERDICT A meticulously researched, compelling reminder of the importance of financial oversight. It should be required reading in business schools.
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