Top tech industry execs named to a Saudi advisory board amid controversy over reportedly murdered journalist

Prince MBS.jpgSaudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman   Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

  • More than a dozen high profile tech executives, including famous venture capital investors Marc Andreessen and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick are part of a newly announced advisory panel for a $500 billion Saudi mega-city project.
  • The panel was announced as much of the focus on Saudi Arabia turns towards the fate of a Saudi dissident who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
  • Shortly after the list of advisors was published, the list was changed and Apple’s Jony Ive was no longer on the list.

An array of high-profile business and technology leaders, including senior executives from Google and Apple were named to a new advisory board for the Saudi Arabian government on Tuesday, even as controversy swirls over the disappearance of a dissident Saudi journalist.

On Tuesday, the Saudi news outlet Argaam reported that Neom – a $500 billion megacity project being built by the country – has formed a new 19-member advisory board. Members include Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive; famed tech industry investor Marc Andreessen; Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Google’s urban planning unit Sidewalk Labs; Travis Kalanick, ex-CEO of Uber; former European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes; ex-Dow Chemical Company CEO Andrew Liveris, and Silicon Valley investor Sam Altman.

Shortly after the list was published and as reporters reached out to individuals about their involvement, Apple’s Ive was quietly removed from the list of names. The announcement was changed to promote a panel of 18 advisors, rather than the initial 19.

While Saudi Arabia was trumpeting its list of high-profile tech advisors, much of the news on Saudi Arabia was focused on the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey last week. The New York Times and several other news organizations report that Khashoggi was murdered by a team of 15 Saudi agents inside the consulate. A report in the Guardian on Tuesday says that Turkish authorities are focused on a black van seen leaving the consulate that they believe was carrying Khashoggi’s body.

The panel of tech and policy bigwigs will presumably help turn the sci-fi-like vision of Neom into a reality. According to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Neom will provide a “civilizational leap for humanity” with a foundation of robots, AI and renewable energy.

Business Insider reached out to the members of the advisory board for comment about their involvement and whether they would remain on the board following Khashoggi’s disappearance, and will update this story if they respond. (Timothy Collins, Janvan Hest, and Rob Speyer could not be reached for comment.)

Here’s the initial 19-member list, according to Argaam:

1) Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator and the co-chair of OpenAI

2) Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz

3) Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO

4) Timothy Collins, vice chairman and CEO of Ripplewood Advisors

5) Alexandra Cousteau, a senior advisor to Oceana

6) Dan Doctoroff, founder and CEO of Sidewalk Labs

7) Norman Robert Foster, founder and CEO of Foster + Partners

8) Janvan Hest, a chemistry professor

9) Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer

10) Travis Kalanick, CEO of City Storage Systems

11) Neelie Kroes, a retired Dutch politician and vice-president of the European Commission

12) Andrew N. Liveris, former CEO and chairman of Dow Chemical Company

13) Ernest Moniz, founder of Energy Futures Initiative

14) Marc Raibert, a former Carnegie Mellon University professor and a founder of Boston Dynamics

15) Carlo Ratti, a professor of Urban Technologies and Planning, and director of SENSEable City Lab

16) John Rossant, founder and chairman of the New Cities Foundation

17) Masayoshi Son, a Japanese business magnate and chief executive officer of Japanese holding conglomerate SoftBank

18) Rob Speyer, Tishman Speyer president and chief executive officer

19) Peter Voser, chairman of ABB.

SOURCE Business Insider

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