Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industries
2015 Winner: Abdulaziz Al-Zamil
His Excellency Abdulaziz Al-Zamil, chairman of the Zamil Group Holding Company, received the 2015 Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industries on Heritage Day, May 14, 2015.
Al-Zamil has played a unique role in establishing, facilitating, and promoting the development of the Saudi Arabian chemical industry and of Saudi industry more generally. He is widely viewed as the father of the Saudi petrochemical industry.
After obtaining BS and MS degrees in industrial engineering from the University of Southern California, in 1968 Al-Zamil went to work for the Industrial Studies and Development Center, established by the Saudi government in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. He quickly moved through the ranks of the Consulting House, and by 1976 he was appointed deputy director general.
Also in that year Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) was created, and Al-Zamil, at the age of 34, was chosen as its first chief executive. The task confronting him was daunting. From scratch he had to create a profitable high-tech industrial enterprise based on Saudi Arabia’s natural resources. However, Saudi Arabia not only lacked experienced industrial managers and workers; it had barely begun to create the transportation, communication, and energy infrastructure needed for modern industry.
Rising to the challenge, Al-Zamil gathered a team of young, foreign-trained Saudi technocrats who became the management core of the new enterprise. In his recruits Al-Zamil looked not only for enthusiasm and intelligence but also for character, and SABIC quickly gained and has retained an international reputation for integrity.
Under Al-Zamil’s guidance SABIC negotiated joint-venture agreements with major foreign chemical companies, which provided much-needed technological and marketing expertise. Al-Zamil oversaw the construction of the SABIC facilities and worked diligently to ensure that SABIC’s joint-venture partners provided critical on-the-job training for Saudi plant workers and managers, many of whom went on to serve key roles not only at SABIC but at other Saudi chemical enterprises.
In 1983 the first of SABIC’s joint-venture operations came on line; SABIC carried out an initial public offering, placing 30% of the firm in private hands; and Al-Zamil was named minister of industry and electricity. Owing to his new position Al-Zamil relinquished responsibility for SABIC’s day-to-day operations to a new CEO and became the company’s chairman. He continued to provide leadership to the enterprise, which steadily evolved into a major global chemical company.
As minister of industry and electricity, Al-Zamil created a regulatory environment that encouraged the development of the private industrial sector; he began to rationalize the electric industry; and he expanded access to electric power to most of the country. To reduce brownouts and blackouts, which had plagued Saudi Arabia, Al-Zamil also linked Saudi power-producing plants into a connected network. The increased reliability not only benefited the average Saudi but greatly assisted the country’s budding industrial sector.
In 1995 Al-Zamil retired from the Ministry of Industry and Electricity and the next year joined the Zamil Group Holding Company, where he now serves as chairman. Abdulaziz’s expertise rapidly led to the founding of Sipchem and Sahara Petrochemicals, which today form a central component in the Zamil Group’s impressive operations in the chemical and other industries both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.
About the Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industries
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) established the Award for Supporting Industries in 2006. The inaugural award went to Richard J. Bolte Sr., founder and chairman of BDP International. In 2007 CHF renamed the award the Richard J. Bolte Sr.Award for Supporting Industries. The award is presented annually by CHF to recognize outstanding contributions by a leader who provides products or services vital to the continuing growth and development of the chemical and molecular sciences community.