SoftBank CEO Son gives Saudi stage a miss

Speaking engagement at investment conference cancelled

By Reuters
  • Published 24.10.18, 2:34 AM
  • Updated 24.10.18, 2:48 AM
  • a min read
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RIPPLE EFFECT: Masayoshi Son Source: Agencies

Dubai/Tokyo: SoftBank Group chief executive Masayoshi Son, whose $93-billion Vision Fund drew nearly half its money from Saudi Arabia, cancelled a speaking engagement at the kingdom’s investment conference this week, a person close to the matter told Reuters.

It was unclear whether Son would still attend the event which started on Tuesday, the person said on condition of anonymity.

Son’s absence from the stage is in marked contrast to last year’s inaugural event, where the 61-year-old Japanese entrepreneur was a notable presence lending credence to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to attract foreign investment.

In a sign of its ongoing commitment to the Gulf kingdom, SoftBank’s representative on the opening day of the event, Vision Fund managing partner Saleh Romeih, reiterated the fund’s plan to open an office there.

Son’s speaking cancellation comes as pressure mounts on Riyadh over the disappearance and death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with many high-profile company executives pulling out altogether.

SoftBank representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Son’s speaking cancellation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Nearly half of the more than $93 billion raised last year to create SoftBank’s Vision Fund came from Saudi, giving Son the firepower to make big bets in late-stage start-ups such as Uber Technologies Inc and shared office space provider WeWork Cos.

The Vision Fund has significant investment in two Indian start-ups — PayTM parent One97Communications ($1.9 bn) and Oyo ($300 million).