Saudi Investment Conference Loses Attendees

Corporate bigwigs are pulling out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week concerned by the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the risk of losing business with the kingdom.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde was planning to attend, but her Middle East trip has been “deferred,” an IMF spokesman said in a statement, without further explanation.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will decide by Friday whether he will go to the Oct. 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

The conference is organized by Saudi Arabia’s mammoth sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, and has been billed as a showcase for the economic reforms of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But it has been thrown into doubt since Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident who was critical of the crown prince, failed to emerge from a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2.

The conference’s website previously featured a list of speakers. But that has now been removed, amid the wave of defections.

Among those shunning the Riyadh conference, according to official confirmations or reports by Bloomberg News and CNBC among others:

HSBC chief executive John Flint
Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam
MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga
BNP Paribas chairman Jean Lemierre
Societe Generale CEO Frederic Oudea
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
BlackRock chief Larry Fink
Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman
Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters

Ford chairman Bill Ford
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
British billionaire Richard Branson
Thrive CEO Ariana Huffington
Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

In addition, multiple media groups have withdrawn executives or journalists who were scheduled to join panels at the conference, including CNN, Bloomberg, The Economist, the New York Times, CNBC and the Financial Times.

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