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World Bank president drops out of Saudi Arabia's 'Davos of the Middle East'

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
World Bank president drops out of Saudi Arabia's 'Davos of the Middle East'
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim speaks during a press conference ahead of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Bali, Indonesia Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has informed the Saudi authorities that he has pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative, a conference that is widely known as the “Davos of the Middle East.”

The move, confirmed by the World Bank, came after Turkey accused the Saudi government of murdering prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had a column at the Washington Post, and dismembering his body.

Other attendees have been canceling their reservations in Riyadh. The New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin tweeted that he would not be going in light of the disappearance of the Khashoggi and the reports of his murder.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who recently purchased the LA Times, also canceled his appearance as did The Economist’s Zanny Minton Beddoes, according to their spokespeople. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has also been reported as dropped out. Friday morning, CNBC and CNN tweeted that it had pulled out.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is confirmed to still be attending.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has also said he may drop out, according to Sorkin, which is especially notable given significant Saudi investment in Uber that includes board seats and the fact that many of the cancellations had been due to press solidarity or NGOs.

HP’s Joanna Popper has also been reported as dropped out as has entrepreneur Steve Case.

The Miami Heat has also withdrawn an appearance by Matthew Jafarian. “In light of recent events, we thought it prudent to withdraw our participation in the Future Investment Initiative,” the team told Yahoo Finance.

Billionaire Richard Branson, who was not to attend, earlier suspended his business relationships with the country, telling Bloomberg — which pulled out as a media partner — that, “if proved true, [this] would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government.”

Khosrowshahi’s cancelation could precipitate a wave of changing support. Many companies contacted by Yahoo Finance said that they were “monitoring the situation,” which means they are going unless something changes. This could be new information or, more likely, waiting to see what other companies do.

After Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier quit President Trump’s advisory council after the President’s seeming approval of neo-nazi and white supremacist groups — interpreted this way by the left, many Republicans, senior administration officials like Gary Cohn, and neo-nazis themselves — a wave of “no comments” turned into departures.

Frazier was praised for leadership while Campbell’s Soup received a boycott for making the decision to leave too late.

Here is a list of who has dropped out, which will be updated:

Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times reporter and CNBC contributor

Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Economist

Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner LA Times

Jim Yong Kim, President World Bank

Joanna Popper, HP



Financial Times

Ariana Huffington

Steve Case


Matthew Jafarian, VP Miami Heat

Andy Rubin, creator of Android

Rodger Novak, co-founder of Crispr Therapeutics AG (Bloomberg is reporting)

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, retail, personal finance, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.