SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son finally condemned the badbadination of Saudi dissident Saudi Arabia's Jamal Khashoggi on Monday, but said the world's most powerful investor would not change his trade relationship with the Kingdom.
In his first public comments about Khashogli's death more than a month ago, Son condemned the attack, but said his Japanese conglomerate had the "responsibility" to continue investing Saudi money, framing the issue in terms of what it means. for the Saudi people as opposed to the Saudi government.
"We want those responsible to be accountable. "At the same time, we have also accepted responsibility towards the people of Saudi Arabia, an obligation that we take very seriously, to help you manage your financial resources and diversify your economy," Son said in a SoftBank earnings presentation at Tokyo. "Despite how horrible this event was, we can not turn our backs on the Saudi people as we work to help them in their ongoing efforts to reform and modernize their society."
Son said that SoftBank did condemn this act against humanity and also journalism and freedom of expression. This was a horrible and deeply regrettable act. "
Son's comments made it clear that he does not intend to totally discard his ties with the Saudis, who have already committed to backing the next technology investment fund planned by SoftBank. And by framing this as an attempt to help the Saudi people, regardless of their frustrations with their unelected royal family, the Son is late trying to claim a high moral standard.
The killing of Khashoggi paralyzed the relationship between the business community and Saudi Arabia, which until recently was working to improve its links with Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Many leaders who had planned to attend a marquee finance conference in RIyadh in the weeks after his death ended up canceling, including CEOs endorsed by SoftBank as Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber.
However, SoftBank has maintained a very low profile during the controversy, declining to say for a long time if Son would be presented at the conference. Son said Monday that he ended up visiting the country, but not the conference, to share his concerns about Khashoggi's badbadination with senior Saudi officials.
Son's silence made commercial sense given that his SoftBank Vision Fund of $ 100 billion depends on $ 45 billion from the Saudis, but it was only sustainable for so long. He would have to make public comments eventually, and Son mentioned the incident at the beginning of his comments on Monday without being asked.
When a reporter asked him if he would take the money from Saudi Arabia in future Vision Funds, they would not say it directly. But he told a second reporter that he would be paying attention to how the Saudis explain Khashoggi's death in the future.
"For new cases or new projects, we would like to carefully observe the outcome of the case," he said. "And once the explanation is completely done, then we'll think about it."