Skip to main content

The chief executives of the Blackstone Group and BlackRock have canceled plans to attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week, people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday, joining Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase as the latest Wall Street titans to pull back in the wake of the disappearance, and potential murder of a prominent Saudi journalist.

The decisions by Stephen A. Schwarzman of Blackstone and Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock add to a string of ruptures between the business community and Saudi Arabia as questions continue to swirl over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Dimon, who was scheduled to be a headline speaker at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, announced that he was backing out on Sunday night. Other corporate leaders who have withdrawn include Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber; and Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor.

Behind the cancellations are allegations, made by Turkish authorities, that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi officials. The Saudi government has denied any wrongdoing, and said Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival.

On Monday, Reuters reported that King Salman of Saudi Arabia had ordered the country’s public prosecutor to open an investigation into the matter.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Schwarzman, Fink and Dimon had consulted one another by telephone over the weekend, according to people familiar with the conversations. The men pressed Saudi officials to postpone the conference, while they and their staffs urged the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to push for a delay of the event or to publicly make his attendance conditional on more disclosures from the Saudis about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Snubbing the conference means that corporate chieftains have had to make difficult business calculations.

The Saudi government is flush with cash from its vast oil reserves, and it has announced plans to invest billions of dollars around the world. The Saudi sovereign wealth fund, for instance, is one of Uber’s biggest investors and sits on the ride-hailing company’s board. And Blackstone has a partnership with the Saudi government on what is expected to be a $40 billion fund to invest in American infrastructure.

But world leaders have increasingly turned up the heat on the Saudis over Khashoggi’s disappearance. On Saturday, President Donald Trump threatened “severe punishment” if the Saudi royal court were found to have had a role in the case. Separately, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany called for a “credible investigation” into the matter.

It is unclear whether other prominent business executives still plan to attend the Saudi conference. Top executives of the Japanese technology giant SoftBank, which has collected $45 billion from the Saudi government for its Vision Fund, had been scheduled to attend. A spokesman for SoftBank declined to comment.

Report an error

Tickers mentioned in this story