March 13, 2019
Endeavor talent agency pulls out of partnership with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing
by Ryan Harrington
The last time we wrote about Saudi Arabia, we entered through the back door: where the National Enquirer was threatening to publish even more intimate photos of Jeff Bezos than those they had already run, unless he denied knowing anything about the tabloid’s connection to Saudi Arabia.
(I don’t know, man, just try and catch up here.)
Today we come at the topic a bit more head on, as last week Kate Kelly and Ben Hubbard reported for the New York Times that the mega-talent-agency Endeavor would be returning the $400 million dollar investment Saudi Arabia had made in the company.
Endeavor, as helmed by agent and business guru Ari Emanuel, has rejected the partnership in protest of the brutal and retributive murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
This makes Endeavor among the first American companies to make this important step, and as Kelly and Hubbard report: “Despite the American sanctions against 17 Saudis said to have been involved with Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, on top of the public outcry, most of the kingdom’s overseas partnerships have remained intact.”
So Endeavor has set a model for American companies disallowing their profits to fund Saudi human rights abuses. Nice job! Especially given that this is a company that (partially, though certainly not most profitably) advocates for writers. (Though we must issue one major demerit for taking the deal in the first place.)
There is much more work to be done here at home, as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country’s Public Investment Fund have sought to diversify their holdings with all kinds of American connections. Kelly and Hubbard write:
Prince Mohammed has worked to turn the fund into a global investment giant whose profits can reduce the kingdom’s dependency on oil. On a high-profile tour of the United States last spring, the prince met with politicians, business leaders and celebrities. Many hailed him as a valuable business partner and a potentially transformative figure in the Middle East.
And that’s how Saudi Arabia has come to have investment deals with companies like Endeavor, Six Flags, and AMC theaters.
It’s an important lesson in tracking American corporate dollars when our government won’t do the condemning itself, whether those dollars are funding oppression abroad or keeping Tucker Carlson’s hate parade rolling here at home.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.