Majid Al Futtaim, a man whose dream was to “create moments for everyone, every day”, died on Friday, December 17.
The rich legacy he leaves goes beyond the eponymous shopping malls and developments he inspired to be built.
His legacy will live on in the pioneering business and culture his Majid Al Futtaim conglomerate created, one that he built by working tirelessly and turning his purpose and vision into reality.
A former bank clerk but a visionary entrepreneur, Al Futtaim was hailed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, as one of the emirate's “most important merchants and senior men".
“May God have mercy on our brother Majid Al Futtaim, the creative businessman,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
His strong belief that robust and world-class private sector institutions play a critical role in driving sustainable economic growth and human development are not only epitomised by the structures he built.
Al Futtaim founded retailing and entertainment company Majid Al Futtaim Holding, or MAF, in 1992, and in 1995, City Centre Deira, the group's flagship mall, opened its doors and paved the way for major growth.
The mall was also home to the first branch of French hypermarket chain Carrefour and family entertainment centre Magic Planet in the UAE — among many firsts the company ushered into retail and entertainment space in the Emirates.
In the 2000s, the MAF portfolio expanded exponentially, with Vox Cinemas, the UAE's first multiplex cinema, opening in 2000.
MAF's success was also replicated outside the UAE, as it expanded into markets including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Uganda, bringing with it the touch of retail and entertainment flair Dubai and the UAE are known for.
“Majid Al Futtaim was not just a businessman, but a genius in trade and management,” said Habib Al Mulla, partner at Habib Al Mulla & Partners, a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International.
“He introduced concepts in the world of commerce that were not known in the region and established a financial empire with a structure that experts could not.
“He became an inspiring model for pioneers and his is an experience that deserves to be documented and studied. May God have mercy on him and place him in heaven.”
In 2003, Majid Al Futtaim Fashion was established, becoming a springboard into the region for some of the world’s most famous retail brands — eventually paving the way for tech company Apple to open its first stores in the region — and allowing them to tap into and grow their brands strategically across a broad market.
In 2005, the region's first shopping resort and flagship luxury destination, Mall of the Emirates, opened in Al Barsha and became the home of the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park, Ski Dubai.
With more than 34,000 employees in 28 shopping malls, 13 hotels and four city projects, Al Futtaim's business endeavours are a perfect example of how humble beginnings can develop into prolific success.
His leadership has benefited entire communities across the region, making his malls and hotels part of the fabric of daily life for many.
“Mr Majid Al Futtaim was a visionary entrepreneur who transformed the face of business in the entire region and his lifetime achievements have been an inspiration for many, and particularly for us at the Majid Al Futtaim group of companies,” the conglomerate said in a statement.
On Forbes' Billionaires 2021 list, he is ranked third in the Middle East and 831st globally, with a net worth of $4.3 billion.