High-profile technology as well as also business leaders are distancing themselves coming from a brand-new advisory board tied to the Saudi Arabian government. The board was announced amid concerns about the disappearance as well as also alleged murder of a Saudi dissident.
Neom, the Saudi government–backed mega-city project, said Tuesday which 19 tech as well as also business luminaries — including Apple design chief Jony Ive, venture capitalists Marc Andreessen as well as also Sam Altman, as well as also former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick — had joined its advisory board. which announcement came as US government officials, among them Vice President Mike Pence, condemned the possible murder of dissident as well as also Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives at the country’s Istanbul consulate.
A few hours after which announcement, individuals supposedly associated with the group began to deny their involvement. Apple told BuzzFeed News which Ive was never part of the project. Meanwhile, a source familiar with the project said which the Apple design chief’s inclusion had been blamed on a translation error. Neom’s press Discharge was later revised online to remove Ive’s name. On Wednesday, some other leaders dropped or suspended their involvement. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff denied ever being part of the project through a spokesperson. as well as also former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz told Axios which he might not participate until more information was made available about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The timing of Neom’s board announcement as well as also the awkward distancing of some of its alleged members puts a spotlight on the relationship between global business leaders as well as also Saudi Arabia, a US ally which has been trying to reform its image under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As part of the revitalization, the prince courted American CEOs as well as also billionaires, particularly those coming from the technology sector. He met with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sergey Brin as well as also Sundar Pichai, as well as also Apple’s Tim Cook in April.
A source familiar with those meetings said which the foundations for Neom’s advisory board were laid during those much publicized events between tech execs as well as also Bin Salman, with some being asked by associates of the prince if they might be willing to participate in a project to build a $500 billion city of the future. This specific person told BuzzFeed News which some of the board’s announced members gave verbal agreements to participate within the project back in April.
When contacted on Wednesday, some of Neom’s advisory board members, including Andreessen as well as also Altman, who sat down with the prince in April, declined to comment on their involvement. Spokespeople for former Uber CEO Kalanick, IDEO CEO Tim Brown, as well as also Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert, all of whom are on the board, did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Masayoshi Son, the billionaire CEO of Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank as well as also another Neom advisory board member, did not immediately return a request for comment. Last Friday, Bin Salman told Bloomberg News which his country’s sovereign fund might invest $45 billion in SoftBank’s Vision Fund, after previously investing the same amount in another SoftBank fund.
On Wednesday, Moniz, the energy secretary under Barack Obama, said he might suspend his involvement because he shares “the deep concerns of many about the disappearance as well as also possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.”
“The recent trend in many countries of targeting journalists for doing their jobs is usually a fundamental threat to freedom of the press, human rights as well as also the rule of law,” he told Axios.
Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the Saudi government who went into self-imposed exile within the US last year, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 as well as also has not been heard coming from since. A Turkish official told the brand-new York Times which Khashoggi was murdered by a team of Saudi agents, who then allegedly dismembered his body which has a bone saw as well as also removed its traces coming from the consulate.
Last Wednesday, Bin Salman denied his government’s involvement within the possible attack in an interview with Bloomberg.
“We hear the rumors about what happened,” he said. “He’s a Saudi citizen as well as also we are very keen to know what happened to him.”
“We have nothing to hide,” he added.