A Google linked exec and a former US politician have dropped out of a Saudi project after journalist’s disappearance

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives for a meeting at number 10 Downing Street on March 7, 2018 in London, England.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
  • Members of an advisory board for a $500 billion Saudi
    megacity project are distancing themselves from the
    organisation after the reported murder of a dissident Saudi
  • Google-linked executive Dan Doctoroff and ex-US
    secretary of energy Ernest Moriz have now dropped out of the
  • Apple’s Jony Ive was initially on the list, but Apple
    says his inclusion was a mistake and he has nothing to do with
    the project.
  • The other 16 members of the board did not respond to
    Business Insider’s multiple requests for comment.

A senior executive who works for Google’s parent company and a
former US secretary of energy have dropped out of a Saudi Arabia
tech and business advisory board following international outcry
over the disappearance and alleged murder of a dissident Saudi

On Tuesday, the Saudi
news outlet Argaam reported
that Neom – a $500
billion megacity project being built by the country – had formed
a new advisory board.

Members mentioned in the announcement included
famed tech
industry investor Marc Andreessen; Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Google
parent company Alphabet’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.

But following inquiries from journalists, members have started
distancing themselves from the project.

First was Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive: The initial list
published by Argaam said that he was a member, but Apple
subsequently said his inclusion was a mistake and that he should
never have been on the list in the first place. (Argaam and Neom
did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.)

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Then on Wednesday, Ernest Moriz, the former US secretary of
energy, said he was “suspending” his involvement until more is
known about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“Six months ago, I was invited to join an international advisory
board for development of NEOM, a smart city of the future being
built from the ground up in northwestern Saudi Arabia. In
particular, I have been asked to offer guidance on achieving zero
net greenhouse gas emissions. Success with this vision will have
global implications for a low carbon future,” he said in a
statement provided to Business Insider by a spokesperson.

“Given current events, I am suspending my participation on the
NEOM board. Going forward, my engagement with the advisory board
will depend on learning all the facts about Jamal Khashoggi’s
disappearance over the coming days and weeks.”

Also on Wednesday, Sidewalk Labs’ Doctoroff retreated. In a
statement, spokesperson Dan Levitan said “Dan Doctoroff’s
inclusion on that list is incorrect. He is not a member of the
NEOM advisory board.” Levitan did not respond to further
questions as to whether Doctoroff had ever agreed to be part of
the board. (Doctoroff’s
walkback was also reported by The Logic

Even after those departures, 16 members remain on the board,
though its future looks uncertain. The other members either did
not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment about
their involvement, or were not reachable for comment.

The new tech advisory board’s announcement came as 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
said that Turkish
authorities are focused on a black van seen leaving the consulate
that they believe was carrying Khashoggi’s body.

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Here was 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

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

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

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

19) Peter Voser, chairman of ABB.

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