WME Parent Endeavor Returns $400 Million Investment by Saudi Arabia

Last October, Endeavor announced plans to withdraw from deal after murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Last Updated: March 9, 2019 @ 4:58 AM

Endeavor, the parent company of WME, has completed its withdrawal from a $400 million investment by the Saudi Arabian government.

Endeavor returned the kingdom’s investment in full sometime in the last few weeks, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap on Friday. The company announced plans to terminate the deal last October, soon after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of the Saudi government’s suspected role in that death.

Endeavor had no comment on the news, which was first reported by the New York Times.

In January 2018, the Public Investment Fund — Saudi Arabia’s major sovereign wealth vehicle — struck a deal with Endeavor to buy a stake of less than 10 percent in the talent and media company for at least $400 million.

It was one of many financial investments made as part of a push by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to remake the country’s image. This push was intended to culminate last fall in Saudi Arabia’s prestigious economic gathering, the Future Investment Initiative conference, known as “Davos in the desert.”

But the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and prominent critic of bin Salman, turned this push into a PR disaster. There were widespread calls for companies to divest from Saudi Arabia, and most prominent American attendees canceled planned appearances at the event. Then came reports that intelligence agencies had determined the crown prince personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

The Saudi government at first denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, but later said that a 15-man team, instructed to kidnap him from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and to return him by force the kingdom, instead violated orders and killed and dismembered him.

The kingdom continues to deny any involvement or knowledge by the crown prince. Eleven suspects were indicted in November.