Here’s What the Founder of Embattled Abraaj Is Telling His Employees and Friends

(Bloomberg) -- Abraaj, the Dubai-based private equity firm founded by Pakistani financier Arif Naqvi, filed for a court-supervised restructuring earlier this month after investors accused the company of mismanaging their money and creditors pressed for liquidation.

The downfall of what was once one of the most influential private equity firms in the Gulf has sent shock waves through the region’s investment professionals, who are worried that money will become harder to raise and deals more difficult to complete as Abraaj struggles for survival.

In messages sent last week to employees and “friends of Abraaj” announcing that the company was filing for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands, Naqvi apologized “unreservedly” for the events that led to the collapse of the buyout firm but denied any intentional wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for Abraaj confirmed the existence of the memos seen by Bloomberg but declined to comment further.

In an internal note to employees, Naqvi said he had no knowledge of intentional wrongdoing at the firm:

“The recent events have caused us all undeniable pain and turbulence for which I apologize unreservedly. Despite all the rumors and briefings against us, and me personally, to my knowledge there was no intentional wrongdoing. In retrospect, however, I think things could have been done differently, and we might not be where we are today.”

He lauded the firm’s philanthropic activities and described internal pushback:

“As we deployed and returned capital to our investors, we also gave back to the communities that we touched through our time and corporate philanthropy -- many Abraaj employees participated in mentoring entrepreneurs, speaking in class rooms, or raising funds for special causes -- as we did most recently for young Afghan kids needing heart surgery. I know full well that these actions did not meet unanimous support from everyone along the years -- yet this was an element of our culture that I was most proud of -- we have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of less fortunate people along our journey.”

He said he had to keep his 700-word message brief due to “incessant leaks” in recent weeks:

“I could write pages and pages on what we have achieved all together and reminisce on our successes and our struggles as we built this platform. Equally, I could write extensively of how difficult and painful the last few months have been for all of us but I am advised to keep this message on the shorter side due to the incessant leaks of confidential information that have plagued our lives of late.”

And said talks with potential buyers of the fund-management business are at an “advanced stage”: 

“In parallel, we have also received strong interest from potential acquirers for the operations of our fund management business, Abraaj Investment Management Limited (AIML). Talks are at an advanced stage and we continue to work together to achieve the most effective outcome for the firm. I will do all in my power to set you off on your new journey stronger.”

In a similar memo sent to external “Friends of Abraaj,” Naqvi said he hoped to meet them again:

“I want to salute all those who have been part of this journey with me – and you are one of those. It has been a privilege for my colleagues and I to work with you and your organizations in trying to make this world a better place. I certainly plan on continuing this journey and hope that our paths cross again in the future.”

And in the message to employees, Naqvi described his gratitude to them:

I would like us all to lay the tribulations behind us and look towards the opportunities ahead. In so doing, I want to salute all those who have been part of this journey. To all of you, I am eternally grateful and wish you every success in reaching the goals you may have set for yourselves. You are, one and all, amazing human beings.
Thank you. God bless you all.”

For more coverage of Abraaj, click here.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.