Wissam Al Mana, as he will tell you himself, has his hands full. “I head the retail division [of the Qatar-based family empire, Al Mana Group]. I oversee new developments and I’m constantly working on interesting projects, one of them in design,” he says. “I’m also pursuing an art project, and I’m involved in several charities. All of that, plus a *** girlfriend…it keeps me pretty busy.” Al Mana’s better half is a pop icon you’ve probably heard of—only the legendary performer Janet Jackson—but what Wissam is doing with the Al Mana Group far outshines his current role as Jackson’s boyfriend.
Born in Qatar, raised in Europe, educated in the United States, and currently spending his time between all three, Al Mana’s perspective on modern business is an impressive one. Just as the Far East was entering the luxury retail market, Al Mana pounced on fashion’s forces, introducing the territory to some of the industry’s most familiar brands. Starting in 2004, he opened two Saks Fifth Avenues, one in Dubai and the other in Bahrain, and ushered in such designers as Hermès, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Chloé, and Giorgio Armani. “Mr. Armani is down-to-earth, very kind, and someone I admire for creating one of the largest luxury brands in the world from scratch.”
The Al Mana Group is big business: Wissam and his two brothers oversee a company that works with over fifty companies in the Gulf region and has interests in real estate, automobile distribution, engineering, construction, retail, food services, and media. But it turns out Wissam’s girlfriend—“I don’t date Janet Jackson, she is my girlfriend; there is a difference,” he is quick to point out—is a source of inspiration for the fledgling mogul. “She is a very special and talented woman who never ceases to amaze me.”