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December 1, 2023

Is Formula 1 becoming the hangout of choice for UHNWs?

Spear’s was invited take in the action of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the star-studded paddock club at Yas Marina

By Robert Jackman

While spilling the beans on the attendees would usually be a touch déclassé, such concerns aren’t top of the agenda at the Formula 1 – at least not if the steady stream of glamour shots on Instagram are anything to go by.

[See also: Abu Dhabi’s ascension: hedge funds invest as UAE cements reputation as global hotspot]

Spear’s spent the weekend as a guest of Aldar, one of the UAE’s largest property developers and a flagship sponsor of the race. Known for its premium properties on Abu Dhabi’s plush Saadiyat island, the developer has recently partnered with Nobu on its latest offering.

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While the Nobu tower might not be scheduled for completion until 2027, the buzz around the launch is quickly gathering pace. Those lucky enough to be invited into the Aldar enclosure were even treated to a visit by the man himself – chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – who signed copies of his new book for guests.

Mr Nobu wasn’t the only famous face to drop by. Abu Dhabi’s stewardship of Manchester City football club (whose record-winning silverware was on display in the Aldar suite) brought visits from current and former players, including captain Kevin de Bruyne (currently nursing a hamstring injury).

On the day of the race itself, there was even a royal visit, as HRH Princess Eugenie mingled among the great and the good (with her developer husband Jack Brooksbank in tow).

[See also: Meet Diana Hamade, Dubai’s divorce doyenne]

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A League of Their Own

While most eyes – and certainly cameras – were on the A-listers, Spear’s had an inkling that the real magic was happening in the various lounge-style booths around the room, where C-suite types from listed London developers were busy hobnobbing with local bigwigs over non-alcoholic cocktails.

Stubborn inflation and energy turmoil have taken their toll on the global economy. But here in the Gulf the impact has been very different, with higher oil prices boosting the coffers of already well-capitalised investment funds – many of whom were present at the Formula 1.

Take Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s $276 billion-strong sovereign wealth fund, which has spent much of the past 12 months seeking out potential unicorns (notably the vehicle provider Moove, which partners with Uber) and partnering with major asset managers in the US and elsewhere. 

The investment behemoth has been a long-term partner in Aldar, helping finance the group’s planned expansion into Saudi Arabia and, according to Aldar’s latest public results, London. One suspects that its deal-makers and money-men were in particular demand over the weekend.

[See also: UAE family law is changing the game for British expats]

As the action wrapped up, Spear’s grabbed a glass of champagne on the paddock club roof and tried – in vain – to maintain a count of the various helicopters taking to the skies. Formula 1 may well be a magnet to the global super-rich, but UHNWs aren’t known for staying put for very long.

Since originally setting its sights on hosting a Grand Prix in the early 2000s, the Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi has invested tens of billions in making the event a reality. From what Spear’s could see last weekend, the bet appears to be paying off.


Discover more with Spear’s: The billionaire behind London’s hottest new residences

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