An update on Abu Dhabis US $22 billion sustainable development following the exit of two top execs
News broke at the end of February that two of Masdar’s senior executives had left the project, with CEO Sultan Al Jaber reportedly steering a comprehensive review of the development deemed the worlds first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city and headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Director of innovation and investments Ziad Tassabehji, who was often referred to as a ‘founding father’ of the project and was on both the executive and investment committees of the Masdar Clean Tech Fund, and director of property development Khaled Awad are believed to have resigned at around the same time.
When asked about the circumstances that surrounded the two resignations, an official spokesperson said: “Masdar, like the field of renewable energy, is continually evolving — the organization is dynamic yet remains focused on the vision of making Abu Dhabi the pre-eminent source for renewable energy and the worlds benchmark for sustainable development. “It requires a different skill set to grow a business than to establish one and it’s natural for the composition, skills and numbers of company management to change; it’s an anticipated part of corporate evolution,” the spokesperson added.
Speaking exclusively to The Big Project, Tassabehji gave his reasons for leaving: “After having started what became the Masdar project, I ran utilities and asset management (effectively all investments in technology and utilities).
“Masdar is now a big company and set to deliver on clear objectives. It was therefore time to move on for me and do something new and entrepreneurial. I am still a special advisor to Masdar and kept two board seats. I am exploring several new ideas, but [have come to] no decision yet. I have decided to move out of the UAE with my family. After 23 years here, it was time to move on”. Awad was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
Masdar said that the transition from Tassabehji and Awad to their successors Frank Wouters and Alan Frost, who will lead the Masdar Power and Masdar City business units respectively (see boxout for full details) was gradual, with a handover that was coordinated over the past five months.
In response to suggestions of a sixweek review of the project’s original plans said to have started mid-February, as reported on the Arabian Business website, the organisation said that Masdar “is by definition a work in progress and all projects — especially those of a visionary nature like Masdar [City] — require a constant process of review and evaluation.
“Future energy technology — which is Masdar’s business — is rapidly evolving, and our plans are constantly under review to ensure the execution of the original vision matches the needs of the market and the latest technology innovations,” added the spokesperson.
Masdar asserted that its perspective today on the potential for scalable, clean technologies was far more developed than four years ago when Abu Dhabi leadership created the vision for Masdar.
“We continue to grow and invest in our energy future; there is a very long road ahead and observers should expect Masdar to continue making changes and adjustments to projects, timescales and plans to ensure that we succeed in delivering the most efficient future energy solutions.”
However, the organisation said that the commitment of parent company Mubadala and the leadership of Abu Dhabi remained unchanged and it was very optimistic about future developments of the initiative and its various investments. When asked whether the project would be delayed from its original timescale, the company could not comment. The development is expected to be completed in 2013.
Speaking last month, shortly before leaving Masdar, former director of property development Khaled Awad told reporters that the six km² development was “on track” to be completed to the planned schedule.
Director of Innovation and Investments: Frank Wouters
Frank Wouters replaced Ziad Tassabehji as director of innovation and investments. He joined Masdar in September 2009 and holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands.
Wouters has 20 years’ experience in the renewable energy field and is a member of the Scientific Board of BWE (the German Wind Energy Association). His career has spanned a number of companies, including Evelop International, Sol Holding, Silicium de Provence SAS and Econcern Gmbh.
Director of Property Development: Alan Frost
Alan Frost has replaced Khaled Awad. He joined Masdar in October 2009 and holds an Executive MBA in Business Administration from the University of New South Wales and a BE degree of Engineering from the University of Sydney. Frost has more than 25 years’ experience in the engineering field and is a member of the College of Civil Engineers. His career has spanned a number of companies including Babcock & Brown and Lend Lease Corporation, one of the largest companies in the industry.