Towell’s history covers more than one hundred and fifty years of dedication, integrity, and hard work by multiple generations of our family. We have written this brief history to capture some significant events throughout our journey. The values of those who we lost live within us to this day. The pillars they grounded will continue to guide us forward. Further, in this brief, names that were and still are vital to Towell’s success were not mentioned due to limited space. Thank you to all family and non-family members who contributed to this legacy
The legacy of W.J Towell dates back to more than one hundred and fifty years. It started with William Jack Towell, who in 1866 established the company in Oman to sell U.S produced Kerosene and shipping materials. At that time, it was the company’s main strength. After several successful years, in the 1870’s Mr. Towell decided to sell the full rights of the company to Louis Maguire. Mr. Maguire was also appointed in 1880 as the first US consulate in Oman. In 1883, to handle the workload, he hired Mohammed Fadhel as principal assistant due to his bilingual and professional expertise. Unfortunately, due to the deterioration of Mr. Maguire’s health, in 1886 he had to resign from his post as consulate and bring in Archibald Mackirdy as a new partner to the company. The U.S followed Mr. Maguire’s lead and decided to hire Mr. Mackirdy as Vice Consul.
In 1892, the US was looking for a new deputy consul to report to Mr. Mackirdy. He was not hard to find. They entrusted our great grandfather – Mohammed Fadhel with the Job. Leading two organizations was a challenge for both men, particularly during the early 1890’s due to the economic conditions in Oman. Unfortunately, two years later, news about the death of Mr. Maguire further shook the company. Together, Mr. Mackirdy and Mr. Fadhel led the company through hard times until 1907, where Mr. Mackirdy resigned from the U.S consulate and sold his shares to J. W Cumming. Mr. Cummings did not take much interest in the operation and left the company in the hands of Mohammed Fadhel.
In 1907 the U.S also selected a new Consul: Mr. William Coffin. Mr. Coffin did not spend much time in the country and realized he needed a Vice Consul, who the United States prefers to be of European or American descent. However, after a long search, Mr. Coffin sent a letter to Washington recommending Mohammed Fadhel for the Job (The nomination letter can be found in the Library of Congress).
Seven years later, Mr. Coffin passed away, and Mr. Mohammed Fadhel acquired the full rights of the company. Sadly, he did not live much as an owner. His health began to deteriorate and due to the First World War, the US consulate closed in 1915. Mohammed Fadhel passed away the following year, leaving the company in the control of his eldest son, Sultan. Sultan was not interested in the company and left it to his brother Habib to lead. For the next decade, the company suffered. The date business incurred loses and the company lost its shipping agency – British India Steam Navigation Company (BISN). It was not until 1928 did the company turn profitable again. The third generation of the family entered into an agency agreement with Uniliver, which proved to be lucrative. The company continued to grow and diversify despite economic difficulties. During the Second World War, Towell played a major role in distributing food to the British army.
In 1947, Sultan’s Son, Ahmed along with his brothers Qamar and Ali, expanded the business to Kuwait, which became the fist expansion point for W.J Towell. In Kuwait, the family represented different agencies and diversified into new industries. The company handled foreign exchange, perfumes, motor oil, and rice. In 1956, the company decided to start its operations in Iraq. The fourth generation of the family grew in numbers, which was an asset for a business that required a succession plan across the region. Family members either stayed in Oman or moved to Kuwait and Iraq.
In the 1970’s, Ahmed Sultan played a vital role in developing Oman. He was given permission to start the first local bank – The National Bank of Oman and became its first chairman. Also, at the time there were no hotels in Oman, which Towell along with their partners Spinneys built – The Mutrah hotel. Further, Towell became the first company to build a residential and commercial complex in Oman. Simultaneously, the Kuwait business thrived through the sale of basmati rice. Towell had an exclusivity agreement with the Pakistani government. However, it did not last long, as governments started to buy directly from nations. Bad news continued in 1974 when Ahmed’s brother, Abdulameer was murdered in Beirut. This took a heavy toll on Ahmed as he blamed himself for the murder. He was supposed to go in his place. He became disengaged from the business and suffered a heart attack in 1975. Unfortunately, Ahmed Sultan passed away in 1977 as a result. Tawfiq, his eldest son joined the business in 1978. Other family members had to step in to fill the gap left by Abdulameer and Ahmed. Despite further setbacks, such as Souq Al Manakh in 1982, together, the family navigated through difficult times and improved the bottom line. The momentum in Kuwait was hindered by the Iraqi invasion in 1990. As a result, most of the family members returned to Oman.
As the years passed, the company grew to become a major player in various industries across the region. Oman went through restructuring from 2000 to 2010. Further, in 2013, Tawfiq decided that the Kuwait operations should be separated from W.J Towell, and consolidated under the name “Towell International Holding”. Tawfiq now owns 50% of the holding in Kuwait, which he exchanged with his shares in Oman. Towell continues to thrive today in different sectors. Our main strength is our commitment to our stakeholders. Whether it is our partners, employees, or customers, we are in it for the long run. We insure that trust is at the cornerstone of each business. This commitment is why Towell has been trusted for generations.