It turns out Russian oligarchs are not the only wealthy people looking to unload their most valuable assets in view of recent events back home. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, that group now includes Saudi princes, who together have sold more than $600 million worth of "real estate, yachts, and artwork" in recent years. What has spurred those sales in recent years? Reportedly the sales have been occurring ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began cracking down on many of the perks and benefits of royal status they had previously enjoyed.
The perks and benefits include routine maintenance bills on airplanes, yachts, and palaces that they aren't selling. Where previously those bills would have been footed by the Saudi Arabian government, now members of the royal family are responsible for their own spending. As a result, many have been forced to sell off some of their assets in order to pay bills and trim monthly lifestyle costs.
But it isn't just the need for some fast cash that is motivating these sales. According to one unnamed source close to some of the royal princes in question quoted by WSJ, it's also a desire not to attract any unwanted attention from Prince Mohammed by way of lavish spending or other displays of ostentatious wealth:
"These people don't work, they have huge staffs and they're afraid of [Prince Mohammed]," the source says, adding that the desire behind the sales is usually for a combination of "cash in their back pocket and not to have visible wealth."
A British country estate valued at $155 million is one of the assets recently sold, as are various large yachts and expensive jewels. Once upon a time, the sellers were some of the most powerful people in Saudi Arabia, but now Prince Mohammed has made drastic changes to their situations. British historian and Saudi royal expert Robert Lacey explained to WSJ:
"They've clearly been cut down to a disciplined, defined regimen and are having to live on that… [Prince Mohammed is] here for the long term and he's reshaping things in a long-term fashion."
In cutting off the royal gravy train, Prince Mohammed has reportedly saved his country's government hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but some of his political moves go beyond saving money. He's had members of his family seen as political rivals detained, and he is also reportedly the person behind the Saudi government's detention of wealthy Saudis at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in 2017, many of whom were only released after agreeing to large financial settlements. The government called it an anti-corruption measure, while critics tend to refer to it as a "shakedown."