The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was the catalyst behind Endeavor’s decision to sever ties with Saudi Arabia.

Talent agency Endeavor has returned a US$400 million investment from Saudi Arabia that was intended to power the company’s growth and diversify the kingdom’s cultural economy.

Sources tell The New York Times that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was the catalyst behind Endeavor’s decision to sever ties with Saudi Arabia.

Endeavor – also the parent company of WME, the majority stakeholder of the international Frieze Art Fair – has spent the past several weeks arranging the return of the money, “effectively severing Endeavor’s relationship with Saudi leaders,” the newspaper states.

The multimillion dollar deal would have allowed the Saudi government to back entertainment projects both in the kingdom and abroad, and to take a 5 to 10 percent stake in the company.

Sources revealed that the move is in stark contrast to the firm’s relationship with Saudi Arabia last spring, before Khashoggi’s murder.

Last year, chief executive Ari Emanuel threw a lavish bash for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to help seal the deal with the Saudis. Guests included Disney chief executive Robert Iger and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Shortly afterwards the Saudi government’s investment fund finalized an agreement to make the investment in Endeavor.

In December, the US Senate officially placed the blame for Khashoggi’s murder on Prince Mohammed. An international outcry ensued with many firms ending deals or severing ties with the kingdom. Virgin boss Richard Branson ended talks regarding investments in his space-travel venture. Private-equity firm Blackstone Group, Uber and Goldman Sachs also cancelled plans to attend a major investment conference in the Saudi capital.

Saudi Arabia is also behind a long-running blockade on neighbour Qatar, which has so far caused widespread tension and conflicts in the GCC region. Joined by the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, the quartet have imposed travel and export restrictions on the nation, which has led to calls from around the world for an end to the dispute.


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