Riad Salameh has been one of the leading figures in the Lebanese financial scene since his first appointment as Governor of Banque du Liban in 1993.
However, his career as a financier extends way before he took hold of the Lebanese pound; here’s his story.
Riad Toufic Salameh was born in 1950 in Antelias to a family line of successful business people who had immigrated to Liberia long ago. In addition to Riad, there were 3 siblings in the Salameh household: Mona, Ramzi, and Raja.
Riad’s father Toufic owned “Cedars Hotel” in Broummana, and his mother Raniah was a well-known charitable activist and Lebanese Red Cross member during her life in Lebanon, where she was murdered in 1982.
But because his parents were also immigrants and lived in Liberia, Salameh barely saw them throughout his childhood and teenage years in Lebanon.
His mother and father only rarely visited their home country while Salameh was growing up, and this only changed after he had turned 18.
With the absence of his parents, Salameh was raised in his grandfather’s house in Antelias, where his Aunt supervised and helped him with his education.
Riad Salameh spent his pre-university educational years in the famous Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour, where he was reportedly an average student with unexceptional grades.
After graduating from school, he went on to study at the American University of Beirut (AUB), from which he later graduated with a BA in Economics.
During his years at AUB, Salameh met his to-be wife, Nada Karam who became a published author. Riad and Nada went on to build a family of 4 children: Nadi, Nour, Rana, and Reem.
After his graduation in the early 70s, Riad began working at the American investment and wealth management company, Merrill Lynch.
He was remarkably proficient at his job, and, very quickly, became one of the most popular non-U.S. stock traders at Merill.
Riad Salameh swiftly climbed the ranks of the company, of which he became an executive manager in 1973, before becoming its Vice-President and Financial Advisor later on.
Over the course of his career at Merill Lynch, Riad would work at different offices in Beirut and Paris.
His reputation as a prominent figure in investment management caught the attention of the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who wanted to invest with Salameh.
After meeting and doing business with the financier, the late Prime Minister grew to admire him, which is what ultimately led him to name Salameh for the position of Governor of Banque du Liban, in 1993.
Since he began working at the central bank that year, Riad Salameh has received several regional and international awards and was ranked among the best central bank governors in the world.
After his first 6-year term ended in 1999, he was reappointed for the position 4 consecutive times. The latest of his terms began in 2017 and should end in 2023.
In addition to being the Governor of Banque du Liban and the chairman of its Central Council, Riad Salameh also chairs the Higher Banking Commission, the Capital Markets Authority, and other commissions.
He also represents Lebanon among the Board of Governors at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF).
On Wednesday morning, April 29th, Salameh addressed the public in a televised speech and presented facts and information to defend his position.
The debate about his role in the crisis, and whether he should – or can – be discharged, continues in Lebanon, as speculations surface about the likelihood of having him step down from his position as Governor, after an almost 3 decade-long reign.