When Yusuf Alireza walked into a restaurant for lunch with the ceo and founder of commodities group Noble, he did not expect to be asked to run the company. The request from Richard Elman, the British-born commodities veteran who had set up the Singapore-listed firm in the mid-1980s, caught Alireza “completely by surprise”.
“Richard invited me to lunch one day and out of the blue asked me to be the ceo,” Alireza says.
The pair knew each other: Noble was a client of Goldman Sachs, where the then 41-year-old Alireza had built a near-20-year glittering career. His star was still ascending; he had just been promoted to the bank’s prestigious global management committee, becoming its youngest and first Middle Eastern member ever, and was co-president of Goldman Sachs Asia.
And yet the offer from Elman was too tempting to pass up. “The main reason I took this role was the...