In the wake of reports that Saudi Arabia allegedly murdered and dismembered a dissident journalist in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, the UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, has announced its decision to pull out of a $400 million deal with the kingdom.
The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, which revealed that the talent agency had withdrawn from a deal that would have seen a Saudi sovereign wealth fund invest hundreds of millions into the company. The wealth fund, which was founded by the monarchy to help invest in entertainment projects, was expected to take a 5-10% stake in Endeavor.
Endeavor’s extrication from the deal comes shortly after CEO Ari Emanuel revealed he was “concerned” by the reports that the Saudi government had allegedly tortured, assassinated, and dismembered Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
”I personally am really concerned about it,” Emanuel said during a keynote session at the annual MIPCOM conference in Cannes. “We’re monitoring the situation and that’s legally all I can say right now. It’s very, very concerning, really concerning. It’s upsetting.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi national with permanent resident status in the U.S., lived in Virginia and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post. He was a prominent critic of Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman (known as MBS) and regime’s brutal oppression of basic human rights, which likely made him a government target.
While in Turkey to visit his fiancee, Khashoggi stepped into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd but never emerged. Turkish intelligence services and state media revealed suspicions that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered with a bone saw inside the building by a group of 15 assassins flown in from Saudi.
Khashoggi’s disappearance and potential assassination have raised significant concern from the international community. Germany, France and the United Kingdom have jointly called for a “credible investigation” while Canada’s foreign minister has also voiced concern by stating that she was “very troubled” by the ongoing case. United States Vice President Mike Pence promised to “get to the bottom” of Khashoggi’s disappearance. However, U.S. President Donald Trump touted Saudi Arabia’s denial of involvement on Monday, theorizing it could potentially have been “rogue killers.”
Khashoggi’s disappearance and it subsequent backlash from the international community also caused several high-profile sponsors, media partners and speakers to withdraw from the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. The departures include the Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNN, JPMorgan Chase, and Ford.
Endeavor purchased the UFC in 2017 for $4 billion, which remains the most expensive transaction for a company in sports history.