Top business executives are distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with many canceling their attendance at an upcoming investment conference that the country had hoped to use to boost its global image.
With reports circulating of the writer’s torture and killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, executives who have been doing business with Saudi Arabia for years are in damage control mode. What was at first a trickle of cancellations from the Saudi event, due to be held in Riyadh on Oct. 23-25, has turned into a rush.
The Future Investment Initiative was set up last year as a kind of “Davos in the Desert” for the world’s business elite to network.
At last year’s inaugural event the country announced the creation of a whole new city in the desert that would showcase new technologies like renewable energies. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been trying to refocus the Saudi economy away from its traditional reliance on oil by investing in more innovative industries, including big firms like Uber.
The scale of the executives’ cancelations, however, has raised questions whether the event will actually go ahead — and how that could affect longer-term business relations with Saudi Arabia.
Executives who have canceled their attendance at the event:
- JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
- Blackrock CEO Larry Fink
- MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga
- HSBC CEO John Flint
- Standard Chartered CEO William Winters
- London Stock Exchange CEO David Schwimmer
- Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford
- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
- Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong
- New York Times Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin
- Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene
- Former AOL CEO Steve Case
- International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde
- Virgin Group founder Richard Branson
- Thrive CEO Arianna Huffington
- World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
- Companies that withdrew as media partners to the conference:
- New York Times
- Financial Times
- Other organizations that have also cut ties with the Saudis in the wake of the Khashoggi case:
- The Glover Park Group, The Harbour Group: Washington lobbying firms no longer representing Saudi Arabia
- Middle East Institute: Washington think tank to no longer take Saudi donations