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Oct 15, 2018

Blackstone and BlackRock Chiefs Withdraw From Saudi Conference I Business I DealBook I NYT.

DealBook|Blackstone and BlackRock Chiefs Withdraw From Saudi Conference
Laurence D. Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, is said to have canceled plans to attend a Saudi investment conference next week.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times
The chief executives of the Blackstone Group and BlackRock have canceled their plans to attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week, people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday, 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.
Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group. He is said to be joining executives, including Mr. Fink and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, in withdrawing from the Saudi conference.CreditRichard Drew/Associated Press
Other corporate leaders who have announced their withdrawal from the Saudi conference, called the Future Investment Initiative, include Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase; Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber; and Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor.
Behind the cancellations are allegations, made by Turkish authorities, that Mr. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi officials. The Saudi government has denied any wrongdoing, and says Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival.
On Monday, Reuters reported that King Salman or Saudi Arabia had ordered the country’s public prosecutor to open an investigation into the matter.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Mr. Schwarzman, Mr. Fink and Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. On Saturday, President 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.

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