Today, Dubai Holding has assets worth Dh130 billion sprawled across more than a dozen countries, but when the company was established in October 2004, it operated from "rented offices with used furniture" and what its former chairman described as "a small loan".
“When we first started, we were faced with a challenging situation, as we only had one remote piece of land in Dubai and only a Dh200 million loan. Today the Group’s assets exceed Dh100 billion across different sectors," Mohammad Abdulla AlGergawi said in a 2017 statement as he stepped down from his post as chairman of Dubai Holding.
The beginnings of Dubai Holding are strongly interlinked with the emirate's strategies in positioning itself as a global business and tourism hub. Its foundation marked a new chapter in Dubai's economy and penchant for landmark projects.
The conglomerate is active in several sectors, including hospitality, real estate, asset management, entertainment and investments. It is the personal corporate portfolio of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed as its current chairman.
Dubai Holding is behind many of the emirate's key properties. Among the first projects it launched was Madinat Jumeirah, which opened in 2004. The five-star resort was designed to be reminiscent of an Arabian village. It features a handful of hotels and dozens of restaurants at its sprawling beachfront location. It is also a recurring venue of the annual Art Dubai festival.
The resort was, in many ways, a statement by Dubai Holding of its intent to contribute to the city’s development as a business and tourism destination. In the two years that followed, the organisation launched Dubai Studio City, Dubai International Academic City, du and Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT), which invests in telecom companies across the world.
"Dubai evolved from a city that had one television station to an international media centre, attracting more than 2000 media organisations and 33,000 experts in the field of media, working and living in Dubai Media City and transforming Dubai to the capital of content creation in the region," Mr AlGergawi said in 2017.
The Tecom Group, which was a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, was established in 2005 to manage existing business districts and develop new ones with the government of Dubai. Tecom is also behind Dubai Design District and Dubai Industrial City. Although Tecom went public in 2022, Dubai Holding remains a stakeholder.
The business districts in the emirate became blueprints for several international developments under the Dubai Holding umbrella, including SmartCity Kochi in India and SmartCity Malta.
Investments and joint ventures under the Dubai Holding portfolio include Dubai Hills Estate, du, Rove Hotels, and Dubai Waste Management Centre.
Projects under Meraas Holding and Merex Investment (a joint venture with Brookfield Asset Management) are also partly under the Dubai Holding umbrella. These include City Walk, La Mer, and Bluewaters Island.
Dubai Holding also has the brands under Jumeirah Hotels group, such as Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Hatta Wadi Hub, as well as hotels abroad, including Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel and Jumeirah Guangzhou.
Dubai Holding has several well-known developments under its entertainment division. Global Village, Ain Dubai, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Roxy Cinemas and Wild Wadi are all within the conglomerate, along with radio stations, including Dubai 92, Dubai Eye and Virgin Radio.
At the time of Mr AlGergawi's departure from Dubai Holding, Sheikh Mohammed expressed his appreciation of the former chairman's efforts in boosting Dubai Holding, saying: “Dubai Holding added real value to our national economy."