SoftBank CEO Is Pulling Out of Saudi Arabia Conference, NYT Reports

(Bloomberg) -- Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., has canceled his scheduled appearance at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week amid the controversy surrounding the death of government critic Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reported, citing a person briefed on the matter.

Dozens of other high-profile executives and foreign dignitaries, including the chiefs of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Uber Technologies Inc., had already withdrawn from the meeting, dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” which starts today in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia said over the weekend that Khashoggi was accidentally killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by its own intelligence officers. Turkey, however, has said it has evidence that it was part of a “planned operation.”

Japan’s SoftBank is one of the Kingdom’s biggest business partners, with the government having provided $45 billion of the nearly $100 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund, the world’s biggest such investment vehicle. But the fund has also backed high-profile startups including Uber, WeWork Cos., and Slack Technologies Inc. Attending the conference could have negative consequences for the Vision Fund, since many of those companies have progressive values and might revolt against any involvement.

A spokesman for the Vision Fund declined to comment to the Times about Son’s decision not to attend the conference but said that an executive of the fund, Saleh Romeih, had spoken on a panel at the conference on Tuesday.

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