Endeavor, the Hollywood-based talent agency that bought 70% of Frieze in 2016, has now returned a $400 million investment to its source, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, according to the New York Times.
The deal closed in April of last year and gave the Saudi Arabian fund less than 10% in Endeavor. Following the murder of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October however, Enedeavor’s relationship with and interest in Saudi Arabia changed. Ariel Emanuel, Endeavor’s chief executive, had been highly vocal about the matter and actively trying to reverse the agreement.
The fund was extended to Endeavor during a high-profile Hollywood gathering last spring, which brought together Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Disney chief executive Robert Iger, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The investment was intended to fund the growth of Endeavor and diversify the kingdom’s economy via the agency’s work in sports and film productions.
Frieze has not yet released a statement but the New York Times reported that the $400 million gap has been fulfilled by Endeavor’s existing group of investors. Emmanuel said that he cannot speak out due to legal reasons.
This places Endeavor among the small group of corporations who have so far cut ties with Saudi Arabia like Uber, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Saudi Arabia has been actively trying to impress and support Hollywood for a few years now, in effort of modernising its image while doing business with AMC, Imax, and Wrestling entertainment groups like WWE.
Calls for more companies to take a stand and denounce their ties with Saudi Arabia are on the rise, not solely due to the murder of Khashoggi but also over the Saudi-led war in Yemen, commonly considered as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our times.