Lebanon's Saad Hariri, who announced on Monday that he was withdrawing from political life, was thrust into the limelight by his father's assassination but always struggled to fill his shoes.
Despite widespread skepticism over whether the three-time premier's retirement could be considered definitive, Hariri's tearful announcement marked a major turning point in his troubled career.
He cited "Iranian influence and international upheaval" among the reasons for not running in parliamentary elections due to take place in May.
Ever the reluctant politician, Hariri had resigned as prime minister after unprecedented nationwide protests broke out in 2019 to demand the wholesale overhaul of Lebanon's political class.
He was designated the following year to form a technocratic government that would implement much-anticipated reforms, but he failed to broker a consensus and threw in the towel.
In a country where other political stalwarts have been in their positions since the 1980s and look set to cling on for as long as possible, Hariri cuts an unusual figure.
At 51, he is more than 30 years younger than Speaker Nabih Berri and President Michel Aoun, and more inclined to self-criticism than most of his fellow political leaders.
"Rafic Hariri's project can be summed up in two ideas: firstly, preventing civil war in Lebanon, and secondly a better life for the Lebanese," he said on Monday.
"I succeeded in the first, but I was not destined to succeed enough in the second," Hariri said.
Rafic Hariri was a towering figure and the political mantle he left after his death was heavy on his son's shoulders.
The backbone of that legacy included a colossal fortune, in the shape of the Saudi Oger company he inherited, and unwavering support from Riyadh that helped counteract Iran's growing regional ambitions.
By 2017, Saudi Oger had gone bankrupt and Hariri's relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was so brittle that his once undisputed leadership in Lebanon's Sunni community started looking tenuous.
The most striking expression of that divorce came in 2017 when he unexpectedly announced his resignation from a hotel in Riyadh, where he was apparently being held against his will.
He had long been criticized within his own camp for being too conciliatory towards the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.
Hariri's brother Bahaa launched a separate movement last year and the job of prime minister was taken by veteran politician and billionaire Najib Mikati.
His standing among fellow sectarian leaders also took a hit during the October 2019 uprising, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding basic services and removal of a political class they accused of mismanagement. Hariri tried to cast himself as a champion of economic reform efforts that were held hostage by unwilling coalition partners.
The move earned little more love from the public, who saw him as a typical product of the kind of corrupt and hereditary politics that were driving the country to the brink.
He again tried to win support on the street by admitting that the ruling class was collectively responsible for the financial crisis that has devastated the country over the past two years.
"People say all parties are responsible, myself included. Yes, we are responsible," he said in late 2020, as Lebanon's economy was going into a tailspin.
Hariri failed to gain new traction and his loss of influence started to look inevitable, further exemplified by the final demise of his once-thriving media empire, the last remnant of which was the Daily Star newspaper that closed in November.
Hariri launched his political career at the urging of his family, after his father's death.
He left his post in Saudi Arabia running Saudi Oger and back in Beirut played a key role in mass demonstrations that ended a 30-year Syrian military presence in Lebanon.
His close friends say he enjoys cooking and exercising, and would make appearances at Beirut bike rides and the city's annual marathon.
Hariri's wife Lama Bashir-Azm, who is of Syrian origin, and their three children live outside of Lebanon.
Lebanon's Saad Hariri, who announced on Monday that he was withdrawing from political life, was thrust into the limelight by his father's assassination but always struggled to fill his shoes.Despite widespread skepticism over whether the three-time premier's retirement could be considered definitive, Hariri's tearful announcement marked a major turning point in his troubled career.He cited...