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'Davos in the Desert' might end up looking more like 'Deserted in Davos'

  • 22 Oct 2018

The cancellations continue to mount as high-profile executives, organisations and media groups back out of Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative conference after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The unraveling of Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2017. ( AFP Archive )

Saudi Arabia faces an international boycott of its business conference set to be held in Riyadh, after the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. 

Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Riyadh's policies, disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish media reports that Khashoggi was murdered and his body removed, citing multiple Turkish security sources. Saudi Arabia denies it.

The investment summit, dubbed "Davos in the Desert," typically attracts executives from some of the world's largest companies and media organisations.

However, the summit, the Future Investment Initiative (FII) faces a mass cancellation following the kingdom’s alleged murder of Khashoggi. 

Here is the list of top executives, media companies, and businesses that have backed out of  "Davos in the Desert."

Finance and business

JP Morgan & Chase Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, HSBC CEO John Flint, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, BNP Paribas Chairman Jean Lemierre, Sinovation Ventures CEO Kai-Fu Lee, and Standard Chartered CEO William Winters are among the chairmans of some of the top financial companies that have backed out of the FII.  And Goldman Sachs also announced they would not be in attendance.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and London Stock Exchange CEO David Schwimmer announced they would not be attending the conference as well.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene also canceled plans to attend the Saudi investor conference.

Glencore plc said its chairman Tony Hayward will no longer be attending the FII conference in Saudi Arabia, confirming a report in the Financial Times.

He is the latest top executive to pull out at the time of writing this report.

Media

Los Angeles Times' owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, Economist Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and co-founder of AOL Steve Case all said they would not participate in the planned event. 

Major news organizations such as CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have also pulled out of the FII. 

And the Fox Business Network, which had been the lone remaining international media partner participating in this year's Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia, backed out of the FII on Thursday.

Officials

The United States Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said he would not be at the event, making it the biggest blow for the Saudis since the US has avoided taking any direct position against Riyadh. 

Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra and French Finance Minister Bruno LeMaire also announced on Thursday that they pulled out of next week's investment summit over Khashoggi’s case. 

On the same day, their move was followed by the British Trade Minister Liam Fox. A British government spokesperson said the move was part of the international pressure on Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Khashoggi.

Who is attending the event?

Despite the international pressure, there are still plenty of companies that will attend the event in Saudi Arabia.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Societe Generale CEO Frederic Oudea, Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy, and Thales CEO Patrice Caine are among the figures who will take their place in the event. 

Reuters said it was reviewing that decision. 

Bank of America has not clarified whether they will still be attending the event.

Citigroup Inc declined to comment on Sunday on their plans.

Bill Winters, CEO of Asia, Africa and Middle East-focused bank Standard Chartered Plc was still planning to go, the company said on Sunday.

And Saudi Arabia will go ahead with the investment conference planned later this month despite key speakers and partners pulling out after the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a statement from the organisers said on Monday.

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