ARTS & CULTURE
08/30/2011 03:20 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2011

Billionaire Art Collector Naguib Sawiris Pushes For Egyptian Political Influence

Naguib Sawiris is the second richest man in Egypt, right behind his father and just ahead of his younger brother. He used to work his father's company Orascom, before resigning earlier this year saying,“I have decided to be more focused on social and political work, aiming to play a role in the transformation of post-revolution Egypt into a civil democracy.”

Sawiris is known among less corporate circles as a prominent art collector, having made a series of high-profile deals including offering a $175,000 for the return of Van Gogh's "Poppies" to Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum in August of last year.

The Sawiris' Orascom Group recently sponsored the renovation of North Korea's striking Ryugyong hotel, and has maintained close relations with the Hermit Kingdom, from their involvement in the country's mobile telephony infrastructure to personal visits with dictator Kim Jong Il.

According to Forbes, "as Egypt wavers between an Islamist and a democratic future, billionaire telecom scion and art patron Naguib Sawiris wants to be his country’s next leader – and he’s founded a political party – the Free Egyptian Party — as he prepares to do just that."