For Mohammed Sharaf, the chief executive of DP World who began his career at a container terminal in New Jersey, the loss of US ports acquired as part of its take­over of P&O is a personal blow.

As recently as Wednesday, in an interview with the Financial Times in Dubai, Mr Sharaf was insisting that DP World was not even thinking about selling the assets. He was trying to explain to the US public and politicians why its ownership of the ports posed no security threat.

As with many of the company’s executives, Mr Sharaf’s faith in the deal appeared to be bolstered by his experience of the US. He had loved every minute of his studies at the University of Arizona in the early 1980s, he said, and his first job in the industry had been at the Holland Hook Container Terminal in New Jersey, near the Port Newark Container Terminal that DP World was due to buy in the P&O transaction.

The decision is also likely to have been hard to accept for the company’s many senior American employees.

Ted Bilkey, the chief operating officer, and Michael Moore, the senior vice-president commercial, are both thought to have been upset by the violent reaction against the deal and had been working up to 20 hours a day to win over politicians and the public. Both have deep roots in the US maritime industry. Mr Bilkey’s first job in the ports sector was also on the docks in New Jersey. He had opened his testimony to a congressional committee by saying he was proud to address it because his grandfather, when senator for New Jersey, had chaired it.

The company was making efforts yesterday to recover from the sudden overruling of its most senior figures. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World’s chairman, addres­sed P&O staff to reassure them on the group’s future. When asked about the disposal of US assets, he is understood to have replied that he was a businessman and not a politician and that it was time to move on.

Get alerts on United Arab Emirates when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article