After the disappearance of well-known Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, companies have been pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative, an upcoming conference in Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish police believe he was killed and dismembered at the consulate. The Saudis have denied this.
The list of companies and individuals withdrawing from the conference, also called Davos in the Desert, is rising. The event will be held on October 23.
The conference is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 project – the brainchild of the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The project is strongly dependent on overseas investment.
So far, CNN, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Ariana Huffington who is the founder of the Huffington Post, The Economist’s Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Financial Times, UBER CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, CNBC and LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong have all announced that they won’t be attending or sponsoring the conference.
Many have cited Khashoggi’s disappearance as the reason.
A spokesperson for the conference told Reuters that they still plan to go ahead with the event despite the disappointing news that some speakers and partners had pulled out.
But the kingdom’s troubles are only rising.
Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire who founded the Virgin Group, has suspended his position as director of two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia as well as his company’s discussions over investment in two space projects.
The Harbour Group, a prominent lobbying firm representing the Saudi government in Washington, has also severed ties with it.