Richard Branson and Steve Case have suspended their
involvement with Saudi Arabia's planned Red Sea tourism development project
because of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Branson said he would also put on hold any further
discussions with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund over a planned $1
billion investment in the group's space ventures, Virgin Galactic and Virgin
"What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the
disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly
change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi
government," Branson said in a statement last week.
Turkey has alleged the dissident journalist was killed after
entering the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to get paperwork for his upcoming
Case, the founder of AOL, was also among a dozen business,
conservation and tourism leaders appointed last month to serve on an advisory
board for the Red Sea Project. He tweeted that he too was suspending any
further activity, at least for now.
Both were among a long list of business leaders pulling out
of an investment conference being hosted next week by Crown Prince Muhammad bin
"I was looking forward to returning to Riyadh this
month to speak at the Future Investment Initiative conference, and participate
in a Red Sea Project meeting," Case tweeted. "In light of recent events,
I have decided to put my plans on hold, pending further information regarding
The Red Sea Project is part of the crown prince's plan for
diversifying the economy and opening the country to tourism. Branson was one of
the first foreigners to sign on to the project, which calls for the development
of luxury resorts and residences on 50 pristine islands in the Red Sea.
Correction: The investment conference hosted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is next week.