Meet the Team

MENA Telecom Infrastructure Fund has engaged Sahara Development Fund B.V. to act as its investment manager. Its principals have a profound background in both the telecommunications industry and in the investor community. The background and experience of each individual principal is set forth below.

Dr. Paul Gelderloos

Dr. Gelderloos holds a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the University of Nijmegen and has published widely. Paul has worked in diverse educational and corporate settings in six different countries all over the world. Engagements have varied from research projects in Europe and the US, to entrepreneurial responsibilities in third-world countries.

In 1992 he has founded Scarlet NV and has been the CEO of this company until it was sold to Belgacom. Scarlet has started its operations purely as a service provider offering call-back telephony services in the Netherlands. As regulation developed in the course of time, Mr. Gelderloos expanded Scarlet’s range of services with carrier (pre-)select services and Internet services. In 2001, Scarlet had the opportunity to acquire KPN’s telecom business in Belgium which included a nationwide fiber-optic network and more than 60,000 broadband Internet customers. This turn-key acquisition turned Scarlet into a full-service, network-backed telecom operator in the Benelux servicing both residential and business customers with a wide range of telephony and data connectivity services. Later, add-on acquisitions of Tiscali Belgium (including Wanadoo Belgium) and Signpost made Scarlet the number two DSL operator in Belgium.

Another strategic milestone for Scarlet was the introduction of bundled services in 2004. Scarlet was the first in its markets to offer true triple play of fixed line telephony, DSL internet connectivity and mobile telephony services (on the basis of MVNO partnerships). By year-end 2005, Scarlet had more than 60,000 customers using this bundled service.

In 2008, Scarlet was sold to Belgacom for a total consideration more than US$ 250 million. After the sale of Scarlet N.V., Mr. Gelderloos became CEO of Sahara International Ventures N.V., an investment company focused at acquiring participating equity interests in telecom businesses in emerging markets. Currently, the company has equity participations in the Caribbean region and Saudi Arabia.

Drs. Stefan Heesakkers

Mr. Heesakkers holds a Masters degree in Business Economics at the Tilburg University, the Netherlands. In addition, he has successfully completed several postgraduate studies in financial management, management accounting and investment analysis.

Mr. Heesakkers started his career as an investment analyst at HAL Investments B.V., a well-known Dutch investment company with approximately US$ 4 billion under management. He was responsible for the ongoing stock analysis and investment decision-making process of listed companies in the ICT, telecom and business services and retail industries. During this period, Mr. Heesakkers successfully completed the postgraduate programme ‘Register BeleggingsAnalist’, qualifying him as a certified investment analyst.

After that, he joined a corporate finance boutique focused on ICT, telecom and business services, SpringFinance B.V., as a managing partner. In this capacity, he was involved in numerous transactions including the sale of UCC Groep N.V., at that time a listed ICT service company in the Netherlands, to Transiciel S.A. (now Cap Gemini S.A.) for a consideration of approximately US$ 80 million.

In 2005, Mr. Heesakkers joined Scarlet N.V. to support the board of directors in all finance matters, i.e. internal and external reporting, business analysis, corporate finance, financial structuring etcetera. He assisted the company in several corporate finance transactions, among which the acquisition of Signpost and funding facilities amounting to more than US$ 35 million. Together with Bob Lokhorst (whose biography is presented below), he was responsible for the entire transaction process regarding the sale of Scarlet N.V. to Belgacom N.V./S.A.

After the sale of Scarlet N.V., Mr. Heesakkers joined Sahara Internation Ventures N.V. as investment manager, where he was closely involved in the acquisition of Sahara Net LLC, Saudi Arabia. At this stage, he is actively involved in several, potential add-on transactions in the region.

Joel Price

In 1999 Mr. Price began R&D and then trading on the statistical arbitrage system which formed the basis of the hedge fund Mr. Price founded and for which he was the fund manager, Foresight Capital Fund, LP. Trading from 2000 to 2005, in a discretionary manner, the strategy was highly successful. The system was fully automated by February 2005. Investment rules were programmatically enforced to ensure directional hedging, using short trades, and sector diversification with the objective of uncorrelated returns relative to the general stock market. Net annualized independently audited returns from 2005 to 2010 were 28% with only a .20 correlation to the S&P 500 stock index.

Contributing to Mr. Price’s success as a fund manager has been a career of project management, team management, and large-scale, complex software systems analysis and development.  Immediately prior to starting work on developing trading systems Mr. Price was the Revenue Systems Manager for Telegroup, Inc., an international telecommunications firm. While there he lead a team in designing and developing a complex telecommunications billing system to accommodate the company’s rapid growth, number 2 on Inc.’s 1995 list of fastest growing private companies, and public offering.

Mr. Price received a BA in Chemistry (with honors) and Psychology from the Rutgers College School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, New Brunswick, NJ.

El Ghali Cherrat

Mr. El Ghali Cherrat, born in Morocco, holds a bachelor degree in Business Economics at the University of Amsterdam. Mr. Cherrat started his career as an accountant at Coopers & Lybrand (now well known as PwC). After that,  he became an account manager at the ING Bank, where he was responsible for corporate securities and borrowing (of securities) activities predominantly for institutional investors.

After that he joined Pacific Asset Management as head of the corporate securities department and junior portfolio manager. Together with senior manager and general manager of Pacific Asset Management  he was responsible for two funds, listed at the Amsterdam Stock exchange, Pacific Dimension en Pacific Properties.

The government of the province Flevoland has invited Mr. Cherrat to act as a senior advisor of the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands, specializing on issues regarding labour market, equal rights projects in Europe, attracting companies to invest in the region, to support labour of minorities. In addition, Mr. Cherrat joined a high-standing investment commission which also included members of the European parliament and staff members of the Dutch Economic and Foreign Affairs Ministries. In this capacity, he has established invaluable relationships with both corporate and governmental representatives in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

In 2009, Mr. Cherrat has joined Sahara Development Fund BV as a business development manager for the Middle East and Northern Africa region, leveraging on the relationships he has developed during his professional career.