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Endeavor ends Saudi business partnership

Global sports and entertainment company Endeavor has ended its partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) by returning the $400m (€354.9m) invested in it, according to multiple reports.

The New York Times newspaper, citing two people with knowledge of the deal, said Endeavor returned the investment in recent weeks.

The agreement between Endeavor, the parent company of the WME talent agency and IMG, one of the most influential agencies in the sports industry, and PIF was initially struck last spring. The agreement was designed to further Endeavor’s growth, while allowing Saudi Arabia to diversify its economic interests outside of oil.

The Times said Endeavor’s decision comes amid unease from the company over ties with Saudi Arabia following the scandal that emerged last October after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

At an industry event in Cannes, France on October 15, Endeavor chief executive Ari Emanuel described Khashoggi’s disappearance, about which full details had not yet emerged, as “very, very concerning, really concerning. It’s upsetting”.

Endeavor is one of the few major companies to sever its business links with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Khashoggi case. The Times added that Emanuel spoke to other investors, including some who already had put money into Endeavor, to help address the financial gap when the Saudi investment was returned.

The newspaper said Endeavor investors have contributed the funds that allow the company to repay PIF.

IMG offered no comment on the reports when contacted by SportBusiness Professional. Endeavor also owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Professional Bull Riders series.