Career details: BA, Princeton University and MPhil, Yale University, both in geology, interrupted by service in the US Navy; JD from the University of Virginia; associate of Chadbourne & Parke in New York, Washington, DC and Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia; headed the Abu Dhabi, UAE office of Chadbourne, Parke & Afridi, 1984-1990; general counsel to SHUAA Capital since 1991.
The lure of the Gulf: Feulner had worked far from home as a geology student and had traveled widely, so when Chadbourne was looking to fill a slot in Saudi Arabia, he was an obvious candidate. Based in Washington, DC, which he ?enjoyed very much,? Feulner nonetheless found the lure of a foreign assignment too strong. He says: ?I envisioned an overseas stay of three to four years. That was 24 years ago.?
Shifting sands: Feulner says his responsibilities have always spanned a full spectrum, from transactional work to government regulation, corporate secretary, compliance, public relations, and participation in the general management of the company.
But he says SHUAA is today an entirely different company from what it was when he arrived in 1991. Initially, ?much of my attention was focused on two major problem investments in Europe, one of which we eventually turned around successfully. After a change of management in 1994, we addressed a number of other problems that had held the company back, including shareholder and regulatory matters.?
Two strategic decisions were fundamental: (1) to focus attention on the Arab region and the GCC in particular and (2) to diversify activities by adding fee-based asset management, brokerage and corporate advisory activities. Asset management and brokerage, in particular, added new dimensions to the legal concerns. ?We did not abandon private equity, but we recognized that the private equity business presents problems for a publicly traded company. As a result, most of our private equity activities are now conducted through fund vehicles, and legal work that might once have been done in-house is now outsourced.?
Dynamic Dubai, rigid rules: Feulner notes very few differences physically between Dubai and Western cities. Dubai is today a modern, cosmopolitan city and English is the lingua franca. But he says the financial regulatory environment remains much less well elaborated than in the US or Europe. He has found it attractive not to have to specialize too narrowly.
He adds that ?changes in the global financial regulatory environment, flowing from Enron, 9/11 and the growth of ?compliance? as a business function in its own right, have hit us with the same force as they have much of the rest of the world, and have added to the drudgery. Among other things, I am a bit weary of certifying copies of clients? utility bills in order to prove physical addresses.?