news 5 days ago

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Bows Out of Saudi Conference Amid Media Exodus

Variety — Gene Maddaus

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has canceled plans to appear at a Saudi investment conference, joining an exodus of media organizations from the event following the disappearance of dissident columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bakish was scheduled to appear on a panel at the Future Investment Initiative, which will be held Oct. 23-25 in Riyadh. The panel, on globalization and technology in the entertainment business, would have been moderated by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. However, Sorkin said on Twitter on Thursday that he was “terribly distressed” at Khashoggi’s disappearance, and that he would withdraw from the conference.

The New York Times was also slated to be a “media partner” of the event, which is hosted by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The Times announced on Wednesday that it would withdraw from the event. Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments and a former chairman of Dreamworks Animation, resigned on Thursday from the conference advisory board.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, also said on Thursday that he would not attend the conference.

Still going, as of now, is Robert Simonds, the CEO of STX Entertainment. Simonds was initially scheduled to appear on the same panel with Bakish and Sorkin. Bloomberg, CNN, the Financial Times, and Fox Business Network are also media partners of the event. Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo is still scheduled to appear.

Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish authorities have told reporters that Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate by a state-sponsored hit squad.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also scheduled to appear at the conference alongside Thomas Barrack, the executive chairman of Colony Capital.

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