Ford Motor Company’s Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, has canceled plans to attend an investor conference in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports. The automaker won’t elaborate on its reasons for skipping “Davos in the Desert”, as it’s been nicknamed, citing only scheduling issues, but it’s thought that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may be a factor.
Jamal Khashoggi was declared a missing person after he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to acquire documents relating to his marriage, and never emerged. He is a columnist for the Washington Post and a U.S. resident, although not a citizen of the U.S., and it’s thought that his criticism of the Saudi leadership may have made him a target of that country’s government.
The Turkish government fears that Saudi agents were waiting for Khashoggi as he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey, torturing the journalist and severing his fingers before beheading him and severing his body, reports The New York Times. The Saudi Arabian government denies that any of this took place.
A number of other business leaders formerly planning to attend the conference, including Uber Technologies CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, and billionaire Steve Case – one of AOL’s founding members, have also canceled their plans. Additionally, no one from General Motors or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is planning to attend.
Davos in the Desert – more properly known as the “Future Investment Initiative”, or “FII” – is an annual investment conference put on by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. This year is to be the second for the international investment conference, as the Public Investment Fund goes about trying to reach the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 – diversifying its economy away from oil and spurring further growth in public service sectors like health, education, and infrastructure.