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Frieze art fair. Photo: Graham Carlow.

Frieze Shareholder Returns $400 Million Saudi Investment in Protest of Journalist’s Murder

Following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, the Hollywood entertainment firm, talent agency, and major Frieze Art Fair shareholder Endeavor has returned a $400 million investment by a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, reports the New York Times.

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has been developing the country’s Public Investment Fund into a global firm, partnering with American business leaders from companies such as Uber, Goldman Sachs, and the Blackstone Group. But amid the international uproar over the dissident journalist’s death, businesses and arts institutions around the world began to reconsider their ties with the Saudi government.

Endeavor announced its intention to return the Saudi investment in December and finalized the partnership severance in recent weeks. The divestment has been tempered by funds from other investors, though to what extent the gap has been filled remains unclear. 

William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, a subsidiary of Endeavor, bought a major share of Frieze in April 2016, and Mark Shapiro, the newly appointed president of Endeavor, is a nonexecutive director of Frieze. Though there was uncertainty as to how Endeavor’s divestment would impact the inauguration of Frieze’s Los Angeles edition, the fair took place last month as planned.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York announced that they would reject Saudi funding for Arab art exhibitions in October. Companies including Uber have not indicated plans to return Saudi investments, and the private-equity group Blackstone continues to use billions of Saudi funds to invest in US infrastructure projects.

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