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Saudi conglomerate SABIC taps Thunderbird for custom Executive MBA

(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia)—Instruction started this month for a custom Executive MBA that Thunderbird School of Global Management will deliver during the next two years for 28 high-potential managers from Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the largest public company in Saudi Arabia. Working closely with senior leaders from the petrochemical conglomerate, Thunderbird professors will teach customized business courses in English at SABIC Academy in Riyadh and at Thunderbird’s campus near Phoenix, Arizona.

The program builds on a two-year pilot that produced 26 Executive MBA graduates from SABIC in December 2013. Pilot participants, who traveled to Arizona for Thunderbird’s winter commencement, said they are eager to serve as mentors for the new class of SABIC students. “We have lived the experience,” said Swailem Al-Swailem, a SABIC General Manager and 2013 Thunderbird Executive MBA graduate. “We have a lot to offer.”

SABIC Global Learning Director Salah Suood Al-Eissa, who represented SABIC at the winter commencement, said the educational investment will benefit the company and Saudi Arabia as the kingdom expands its global economic influence.

“The thinking at the top is that we are not just investing in our company, we are investing in our country,” Salah Al-Eissa said. “We recognize that we are a global company in a growing economy, and our leaders must be prepared to manage teams across the globe.”

Salah Al-Eissa said SABIC identified Thunderbird as a potential partner after seeing the results of a custom Executive MBA that Thunderbird designed for South Korean conglomerate LG from 2005 to 2010. He said Thunderbird professors engaged quickly to learn everything they could about SABIC, a manufacturer of chemicals, fertilizers, plastics and metals.

“Our faculty has customized the content to SABIC’s global leadership challenges,” said Thunderbird Professor Graeme Rankine, Ph.D., co-academic director of the program.

Thunderbird Professor Paul Kinsinger serves as the other academic director, and Thunderbird Executive EducationManaging Director Beth Stoops oversees the client team. “I have never found a client so engaged as a thought partner,” Stoops said. “The true meaning of partnership has been there every step of the way.”

SABIC senior leaders, including CEO Mohammed Al-Mady, helped handpick program participants and have made sure work schedules do not conflict with studies. SABIC leaders also have been transparent with Thunderbird faculty about company challenges, allowing professors to maximize the relevance of each class.

SABIC leaders also have served as guest speakers in the classroom, and they have served as sponsors for strategic projects built into the curriculum.

Several graduates from the pilot program already have received promotions within SABIC, which leaves Kinsinger confident about the long-term return on investment. “This company did it right,” he said. “In another five or 10 years, the people managing SABIC will be people who have come through the Thunderbird program.”


Thunderbird Media Contact:

Virginia Mungovan

602 978 7081


About Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC)

Ranked among the world’s largest petrochemicals manufacturers, SABIC is a public company based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Overall, 70 percent of the company’s shares are owned by the Saudi Arabian government, with the remaining 30 percent held by private investors in Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Created by Royal decree in 1976, SABIC has operations today in more than 40 countries with a global workforce of about 40,000 talented individuals. For more about SABIC, please visit:

About Thunderbird School of Global Management

Thunderbird is the world’s No. 1-ranked school of international business with more than 65 years of experience in developing leaders with the global mindset, business skills and social responsibility necessary to create sustainable value for their organizations, communities and the world. Thunderbird is sought out by graduate students, working professionals and companies worldwide seeking to gain the leadership skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy. For more about Thunderbird, please visit: