Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has tweeted he’s pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia. This comes in the wake of the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as evidence piles up that the journalist was tortured at the direction of Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, that he was murdered during the interrogation, and his body cut up and removed in diplomatic bags.
Mnuchin’s announcement came moments after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stepped out of the White House and told reporters the Saudis had “assured me they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and do so in a timely fashion and that the report itself will be transparent.”
He also said the Saudis asked for a few more days to complete their “investigation, so we too have complete understanding of the facts surrounding that, at which point we can make a decision if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.”
Mnuchin was under increased pressure to pull out as various U.S. organizations yanked sponsorship and participation of the conference launched last year by Crown Prince MBS as part of his charm initiative to rebrand that country.
Most media companies involved with the conference had already pulled out of next week’s confab. Japanese media company Nikkei is the latest to withdraw from the event, dubbed Davos in the Desert, joining CNN, Bloomberg, New York Times, CNBC and the Financial Times, as well as Economist editor in chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Actor Gerard Butler canceled a trip to the country for a screening of his movie Hunter Killer.
In the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance and mounting evidence the Saudis murdered and dismembered him, leading U.S. and international film companies also have been reevaluating their investments in and from the country including Endeavor.
Ditto other business leaders. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has suspended a $1B investment project while JP Morgan, Uber and Ford joined in with media companies scrubbing sponsorship of the high-profile investment conference in Riyadh next week.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund took a minority stake in Deadline and Variety owner PMC earlier this year for a reported $200 million.