Ari Emanuel gave his first comments on the disappearance of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi on Monday, saying that Endeavor is “monitoring” the situation and that he is “really concerned” about the news that has American companies reconsidering their partnerships with Saudi Arabia.
“I personally am really concerned about it,” said Emanuel at the MIPCOM entertainment conference in Cannes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re monitoring the situation and that’s legally all I can say right now. It’s very, very concerning, really concerning. It’s upsetting.”
Earlier this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Hollywood and the Saudi government pledged to invest $400 million in Endeavor as part of the country’s attempts to modernize its economy and move away from oil. Bin Salman’s courting of Hollywood also saw him visit major studio heads like Disney CEO Bob Iger, as well as end the country’s 35-year ban on movie theaters as AMC opened its first cineplex there this past spring.
But the country’s dealmaking has been thrown into question following news that Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist who has criticized bin Salman’s government for human rights and press freedom violations, went missing earlier this month after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish intelligence organizations suspect that he was murdered in the consulate with bin Salman’s approval.
Since the news broke, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have called for the U.S. to end its arms deals with Saudi Arabia if the Turkish reports are proven to be true, while the Trump administration has continued to support bin Salman and has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with him.
Meanwhile, in the business world, several major U.S. businesses have pulled out of the Saudis’ Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference, which is set to take place in Riyadh on Oct. 23. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and STX Entertainment CEO Robert Simonds announced this past week that they would not attend, joining executives from Uber, Ford Motor Company, and JP Morgan Chase, among others.
Multiple U.S. media partners have pulled out of the FII, including The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNBC, and CNN. Only Fox Business and Arabic news organization Al Arabiya remain as partners.