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Softbank chief Son skips speech at Riyadh forum after killing of Saudi writer in Turkey

Masayoshi Son, chairman of the telecom giant Softbank Group Corp. (Mainichi)
Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, center, and Jordan's King Abdullah II second left, attend the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

TOKYO -- Masayoshi Son, chairman of the telecom giant Softbank Group Corp., cancelled his speech at an international economic forum that began in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Oct. 23, according to people familiar with the decision. The move came after acknowledgement by the oil-rich country of the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials in the country's consulate in Turkey's Istanbul.

Son joined a group of top government officials and heads of leading corporations skipping the Future Investment Initiative, a brainchild of 33-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The crown prince is spearheading the country's efforts to wean itself off from dependence on oil and create new industries, and the economic forum was one of such projects. However, following the surfacing of the Khashoggi case, a series of top foreign officials and corporate leaders such as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon scrapped their plans to attend the event. Japan's MUFG Bank Ltd. President and CEO Kanetsugu Mike was among them.

Softbank Group has set up a 10-trillion-yen "Softbank Vision Fund" with investment from a Saudi governmental-linked fund to invest in information technology companies. It is still possible that Son will attend the Riyadh conference, according to people close with the arrangement.

(Japanese original by Arimasa Mori, Business News Department)

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