Both Opendoor founder and CEO Eric Wu and Compass founder and CEO Robert Reffkin won’t be in attendance at Saudi Arabia’s third annual Future Investment Initiative conference even as many U.S. executives return to the so-called “Davos in the Desert.”
The conference, to be held at the end of the month in Riyadh, the country’s capital, is billed as an “international platform for expert-led debate between global leaders, investors and innovators with the power to shape the future of global investment,” two years ago featured some of the industry’s top tech leaders.
That shifted last year after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the order of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Last year, dozens of top names pulled out of the conference, including SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, among dozens of others. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the tech investment vehicle of the Japanese conglomerate, has been partially funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
A spokesperson for the company declined to comment when asked if Son, or any other representatives from SoftBank, were attending the conference this year.
Both Compass and Opendoor have been heavily funded by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, and both addressed the controversy surrounding Khashoggi’s killing in the past. Neither has ruled out accepting more money from the fund. Neither of the companies’ CEOs will be attending the conference.
A spokesperson for Compass said Reffkin, who has not attended the event in the past, was not invited to attend. Inman was able to confirm with Recode reporter Theodore Schleifer, who obtained a preliminary invite list from July, that Reffkin was not on the list of invited guests. However, according to Recode, the event now boasts more than 200 unnamed speakers, more than the original July list.
Wu, on the other hand, was invited as an attendee, but will not be going to the event, according to an Opendoor spokesperson. The spokesperson did not respond to an email asking if Wu had any specific reason for not attending and if he had attended the event in the past.
Past year’s speakers have been wiped from the event page, although cached versions of the page published on Medium don’t show Wu listed as a speaker. It’s not clear if he simply attended the event, however.
This year’s speaker list, according to Recode, shows heavy hitters from Wall Street and international investors will be speaking at the retreat, sometimes called “Davos in the Desert.” Executives from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, are slated to attend the event, as is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to USA Today.
Lawrence Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, a global investment firm with a significant stake in both publicly-traded Realogy and RE/MAX, will also be in attendance, according to USA Today. Fink, who pulled out last year, defended continuing his business relationship with Saudi Arabia on LinkedIn, earlier this year.
“I believe greater economic integration and diversification will help Saudi Arabia build a more modern and sustainable economy and society for all of its citizens,” Fink wrote. “I also believe that corporate engagement and public dialogue can help with that evolution.”