JPMorgan, Ford heads pull out of Saudi conference

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is the first prominent Wall Street name to drop out of a Saudi investment conference, adding to a large list of executives who have already backed out.

Ford Motor Company Chairman Bill Ford was also reported to have canceled his trip to the conference.

The two executives join Viacom Inc. CEO Bob Bakish, Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and British billionaire Richard Branson who have announced their decision to not attend.

The New York Times, CNN, CNBC have also announced they would not sponsor the event, and several prominent journalists have said they would not attend.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Future Investment Initiative Conference, dubbed "Davos in the Desert", is slated to run Oct. 23 – 25, and is part of his Vision 2030 plan to ween the kingdom off its reliance on oil.

The conference has faced scrutiny as investors have been backing out because of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On Oct. 2, 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the Saudi consulate while Khashoggi was inside, Turkish police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of what happened to Khashoggi, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K. — are pressing for the mystery to be cleared up as soon as possible.

Saudi Arabia has made no plans to cancel the event, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed Friday he will attend the conference.

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