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Endeavor CEO On Returning $400 Million Investment to Saudi Arabia

June 1, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Endeavor Image Credit: Endeavor

Endeavor acquired WWE in April, and Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel recently discussed the company’s 2019 decision to return a $400 million investment to Saudi Arabia. Emanuel returned the investment by Saudi Arabia and crown prince Mohammed bin Salman a few months after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has been concluded by several intelligence agencies as being ordered by MBS. He was asked about the situation as well as his relationship with the country in a recent interview with Freakonomics. You can check out the highlights below (per Fightful):

On his initial partnership with Saudi Arabia: “I was somewhere for the UFC, making a deal, either in China or Russia, I get a call from one of my investors in Abu Dhabi. He says, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m making this deal.’ ‘Can you fly to Abu Dhabi?’ ‘Of course.’ Found a flight, flew to Abu Dhabi, we met, he said, ‘I want you to go to Suadi Arabia, meet with MBS [Mohammed bin Salman].’ ‘Okay.’ ‘He’s going to be taking over and he wants entertainment, he’s changing what they’re doing,’ and he gave me the whole speech. I said, ‘I’ll fly to Suadi.’ I flew to Saudi, met with MBS.”

On MBS: “He’s incredible. He’s as charming as can be. He had this whole vision, bringing entertainment and movies back, and he wanted to spend $30 billion in entertainment. I thought his vision was incredible. We negotiated, it took about nine months in negotiation for them to invest, I think, $400 million. Then, a bad thing happened. Let’s be very clear what happened, I’m not defending what they did [Khashoggi’s murder].

“I have a brother who has been in two White Houses. Every country does bad things, they just don’t do it in an embassy. Right or wrong, we killed an American citizen, who was a terrorist, with no trial during the Obama administration [the drone strike on Anwar Nasser Abdulla al-Awlaki in 2011]. He was American, he was a terrorist, no trial. That wasn’t in an embassy, but that was…every country….that was evident. That was very difficult. I wish it woud not have happened for a lot of reasons.”

On returning the money: “It was a long negotiation. We wrote a check back, with interest.”

On if the situation precludes the notion of himself or Endeavor doing business with Saudi Arabia in the future: “No, but we wrote a check. Everybody thinks things are black and white, and I have a tendency to do that too. We live in this period of time where, there was a period of time where it was worse, and I struggle with this. We do business there. People drive cars with oil. Let’s get through a bunch of stuff here. Governments do bad things. Let’s just say that, and then work through our own emotional ethics.”

On why this situation specifically prompted him to return the money: “I don’t know. I don’t really know.”

article topics :

Ari Emanuel, Endeavor, Jeremy Thomas