Busi­nesses sus­pend ties with Saudi Ara­bia

The Commercial Appeal - - Business - Dan­ica Kirka AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

LON­DON – Global busi­ness lead­ers are re­assess­ing their ties with Saudi Ara­bia, stok­ing pres­sure on the Per­sian Gulf king­dom to ex­plain what hap­pened to a dis­si­dent writer who dis­ap­peared af­ter vis­it­ing its con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Bri­tish bil­lion­aire Richard Bran­son on Fri­day sus­pended busi­ness links with Saudi Ara­bia, and Uber CEO Dara Khos­row­shahi said he might not at­tend an in­vest­ment con­fer­ence in the coun­try this month amid re­ports that Ja­mal Khashoggi may have been killed at the Saudi con­sulate in Turkey’s cap­i­tal.

“What has re­port­edly hap­pened in Turkey around the dis­ap­pear­ance of journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the abil­ity of any of us in the West to do busi­ness with the Saudi gov­ern­ment,” Bran­son said in a state­ment.

Bran­son, founder of Vir­gin Group, says he will sus­pend his role as di­rec­tor in two tourism projects in Saudi Ara­bia while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion takes place. He is also putting on hold dis­cus­sions about a pro­posed Saudi in­vest­ment in space com­pa­nies Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic and Vir­gin Or­bit.

Saudi Ara­bia is fac­ing in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to clar­ify what hap­pened to Khashoggi, a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist.

Khos­row­shahi is sched­uled to speak at the Fu­ture In­vest­ment Ini­tia­tive con­fer­ence, which takes place Oct. 23-25 in the Saudi cap­i­tal, Riyadh.

“I’m very trou­bled by the re­ports to date about Ja­mal Khashoggi,” Khos­row­shahi said. “We are fol­low­ing the situa-

tion closely, and un­less a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent set of facts emerges, I won’t be at­tend­ing the FII con­fer­ence in Riyadh.”

The in­vest­ment con­fer­ence lists dozens of ex­pected speak­ers, in­clud­ing JP­Mor­gan Chase CEO Jamie Di­mon, Blackrock Chair­man Larry Fink and U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin, the lat­ter con­firm­ing Fri­day that he will go.

“I am plan­ning on go­ing at this point,” he told broad­caster CNBC. “If more in­for­ma­tion comes out and changes, we could look at that.”

Joe Kaeser, the pres­i­dent and CEO of Ger­man in­dus­trial giant Siemens AG, also still plans to at­tend.

The Fi­nan­cial Times, which is listed as a me­dia part­ner to the event, an­nounced it would no longer be do­ing so.

“The Fi­nan­cial Times will not be part­ner­ing with the FII con­fer­ence in Riyadh while the dis­ap­pear­ance of journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi re­mains un­ex­plained,” Fi­nola McDon­nell, the head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said in a tweet.

CNN can­celed its part­ner­ship, and said its an­chors and re­porters would no longer mod­er­ate pan­els. The New York Times and its busi­ness colum­nist An­drew Ross Sorkin sim­i­larly pulled out of the event.

Saudi journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi dis­ap­peared Oct. 2 af­ter vis­it­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, Turkey. SEDAT SUNA/EPA-EFE

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