Saudi Hopes Of Being A Desert Manhattan Dry Up As More Banking And Industry Titans Ditch Business Conference Over Missing WaPo Columnist

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

Saudi Arabia’s hopes of boosting foreign investment are drying up as three more banking and industry titans decided to ditch a business conference starting on Oct. 23 because of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon pulled out Sunday night, and two other VIPs soon followed: Laurence Fink, chief executive of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock Inc., and Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of private equity firm Blackstone group, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. President Donald Trump called Saudi King Salman about Khashoggi’s potential murder, according to a Monday tweet.

Members of Human Rights Association (IHD) hold portraits of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi reading "Jamal Khashoggi is missing since October 2" during a demonstration outside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 9, 2018. KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Members of Human Rights Association (IHD) hold portraits of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi reading “Jamal Khashoggi is missing since October 2” during a demonstration
outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 9, 2018. KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudis were still planning to hold the conference that starts on Oct. 23 as of Friday, a conference spokesman told The WSJ. The country’s stocks took a hit Sunday as Khashoggi’s disappearance continued to dominate the news cycle.

JPMorgan Chase’s Dimon was set to be a “featured speaker” at the so-called Davos in the Desert conference, according to The WSJ. JPMorgan Chase has “longstanding ties to Saudi Arabia and is advising it on deals,” according to The WSJ.

Virgin Group founder and billionaire Richard Branson pulled out of the conference and suspended his largely tourism-related business ties with Saudi Arabia Friday, reported ABC News.

“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government,” Branson said in a statement, according to ABC News.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford and Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi will not attend, either.

President Donald Trump (R) holds up a chart of military hardware sales as he meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump (R) holds up a chart of military hardware sales as he meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam and Goldman Sachs executives Dina Powell and Sheila Patel still plan to attend, reported The WSJ. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Says It Will Hit Back Twice As Hard Against Any Sanctions Over Khashoggi)

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