Media company Endeavor considering cutting ties with Saudi Arabia

Posted at 4:10 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 18:10:38-04

The media conglomerate Endeavor is exploring pulling out of a $400 million deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund in the wake of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

“We are assessing the situation and considering our options,” the person said.

Any decision to cut ties with the Saudi kingdom, which makes investments through its public fund, would be a huge reversal for one of Hollywood’s most prominent talent and event management companies.

When Bloomberg first reported in March that the Saudis were taking a stake in Endeavor, it was seen as yet another way that the kingdom was trying to diversify its oil-reliant economy and modernize its culture. Endeavor owns and operates major industry events, including New York Fashion Week. It’s also the majority owner of the mixed martial arts league, UFC as well as the parent company of the talent agency, WME.

Companies that do business with Saudi Arabia have been feeling pressured to cut ties with the country after Khashoggi vanished earlier this month. A growing list of companies have recently dropped out of the Future Investment Initiative — scheduled to take place next week in Saudi Arabia — including media sponsors such as CNN and the New York Times. Executives from companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Uber and Blackrock have also pulled out of the event.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey on October 2.

Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in Jamal’s disappearance, and has said he left the consulate the day he arrived. But a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that shows Khashoggi was killed there.

Two sources told CNN on Monday that the Saudis are preparing a report that will acknowledge Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation gone wrong.