Ford Motor chairman cancels visit to Saudi investor conference

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) Chairman Bill Ford canceled a multi-stop trip to the Middle East, including a planned appearance at a Saudi investment conference, the company said on Sunday, the latest such cancellation after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford poses next to a 1965 Ford Mustang GT during the 100 year celebration of the Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan U.S. September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The company did not elaborate on the reasons for Ford’s decision not to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Riyadh’s policies, disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey believes he was murdered and his body removed. Saudi Arabia has denied that.

The investment summit in Riyadh later this month typically attracts executives from some of the world’s largest companies and media organizations. But it has rapidly become a vehicle for those firms to express their concerns over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened “severe punishment” if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, although he said Washington would be “punishing” itself if it halted military sales to Riyadh.

Major news organizations such as CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have pulled out of the conference. The Fox Business Network, the lone Western news outlet still heading to the conference, told Reuters on Sunday it was reviewing that decision.

Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom Inc (VIAB.O) CEO Bob Bakish and billionaire Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, said they were no longer going .

The absence of media and technology executives is likely to case a shadow over the three-day event, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.” It has become the biggest show for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform vision.

“Whilst it is disappointing that some speakers and partners have pulled out, we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of speakers, moderators and guests from all over the world to Riyadh,” a Future Investment Initiative representative said last week.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in New York; Additional reporting by Joe White in Detroit; Editing by Peter Cooney

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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