SoftBank CEO Son won't speak at Saudi conference: source


SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son, whose $93 billion Vision Fund drew nearly half its money from Saudi Arabia, canceled 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.

The 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.

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 leading credence to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to bring foreign investment into the Gulf kingdom.

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A SoftBank spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request 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 Arabia, giving Son the firepower to make big bets in late-stage startups such as Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and shared office space provider WeWork Cos.

SoftBank has repeatedly declined to comment on whether SoftBank management including Son would attend, even as executives from portfolio companies Uber and Improbable dropped out.

Son's mix of visionary rhetoric and hard-headed business decisions has given him an oversized presence in the tech world.

However alarm over Saudi's involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi has underlined his investment juggernaut's reliance on backers such as the kingdom at a time of rising political tensions.

Arm Holdings CEO Simon Segars has pulled out of the event, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.SoftBank acquired the chip designer in 2016.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure would also not attend.

(Reporting by Tom Arnold in Dubai and Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Clarence Fernandez)