Branson Suspends Negotiations Over $1 Billion Space Investment From Saudi Arabia

Richard Branson at the Future Investment Forum in Saudi Arabia in October 2017. (Credit: CIC)

Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson said he is suspending discussions with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which last year signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $1 billion in Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

Branson announced the decision amidst growing international concern over the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey. There are unconfimed reports that Saudi security officials murdered the dissident writer.

Branson also suspended his directorships in two Saudi tourism projects to be built around the Red Sea.

Branson’s full statement is below.

I had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it is why I was delighted to accept two directorships in the tourism projects around the Red Sea. I felt that I could give practical development advice and also help protect the precious environment around the coastline and islands.

What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government. We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr Khashoggi.

While those investigations are ongoing and Mr Khashoggi’s presence is not known, I will suspend my directorships of the two tourism projects. Virgin will also suspend its discussions with the Public Investment Fund over the proposed investment in our space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

  • newpapyrus

    Its time for the US to set the example of placing– high tariffs– of all products imported into the US
    from nations that are not free and democratic and who abuse human
    rights.

    Free and fare trade with the US should be– restricted–
    to nations that are free and democratic and who respect fundamental
    human rights.

    That’s the only way we’re going to build a better world
    while providing a powerful incentive to spread freedom and democracy
    throughout the realm of humanity.

    Marcel

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Good for Sir Richard.

  • DJN

    The Saudi’s were probably backing out long before this incident. News reports are that money is getting tight, why throw more down the Branson rat hole?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Well done. very well done

    Its time for us to stop dealing with both of the devils in the mideast

  • Douglas Messier

    Maybe. Or perhaps they were waiting for SpaceShipTwo to actually get to space and back safely. I do believe a flight test will happen in the weeks ahead. For once, Branson isn’t bullshitting.

  • Stu

    So long as at least one of the several devils in that region that we won’t deal with is Israel, I can go for that. Sadly, that will never happen. And Saudi has lots of money, so the US will happily continue to deal with them.

  • Paul_Scutts

    Religions suck big time.

  • Robert G. Oler

    one day we will cut that one off as well

  • ThomasLMatula

    I agree. It surprises me that California works to attract business from Saudi Arabia given their treatment of LGBTs, including prison, flogging and execution.

    Wonder who will protect them when we pull our military out? Would the EU step up? Japan? Both are dependent on their oil, but we aren’t thanks to the new fracking technology for oil recovery.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Israel is the only real democracy in the region. The Palestian problem is largely the result of the surrounding nations failing to integrate them or reach peace deals with Israel. It is a problem that could have been solved 60 years ago if the Soviets hadn’t intervened in the region.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there is no protecting the Saudis they are the biggest of the states all created by the US and Europe that will collapse as WW1 works its way through the mideast.

  • Robert G. Oler

    that is not an excuse to tolerate their treatment of the Palestinians and their aggressive nature in the region. now they are helping the Saudis build a bomb at Yanbu

  • Robert G. Oler

    all of it

  • ThomasLMatula

    Given that Iran is their common enemy it is not surprising.

  • Stu

    Being a democracy doesn’t justify decades of appalling behaviour and ignoring international law.

  • nathankoren

    Your dogged coverage of Virgin Galactic means that when you say something like this, it is *highly* credible.

  • Paul_Scutts

    Abso-bloody-lutely, Bob. 🙂 Regards, Paul.

  • duheagle

    What appalling behavior? What international law?

  • duheagle

    Israeli treatment of “Palestinians” has been remarkably restrained considering the 70 years of continuous homicidal provocations by people of this invented non-nationality. Nor are the Israelis unique in their status as targets of “Palestinian” psychopathy. Having utterly failed to crush Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, despite abundant help from several Arab states, “Palestinians” next tried taking over the nation of which they had all been titular citizens prior to June 1967, Jordan. In more recent years, “Palestinians” have been fighting a low-level war against Egypt in the Sinai. Small wonder no other Arab nation has wanted any of them on its own soil since.

    As for the settlements Israelis have built in the West Bank territory taken from Jordan, and those previously built in Gaza, it is traditional, as well as just, for the victor in a war of aggression started by its enemies to take some of those enemies’ territory in compensation and to enhance security. Consider the changing maps of France, Germany and Poland over the past 150 years.

    In June 1967, in response to a war launched by a coalition of several Arab states, Israel took the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai from Egypt. Egypt took part of Sinai back in its 1973 war with Israel, then made a peace agreement that included return of the rest of Sinai. Syria never made peace with Israel and Golan remains in Israeli hands. “Palestinians” tried to take over all of Jordan in 1969 and were expelled back into the Israeli-held West Bank.

    Israel gave back Gaza to the “Palestinians” some years ago. All they got in return was the accession of Hamas to leadership there, on-going rocket attacks and other incidents of terrorist violence and a slow-rolling civil war in both parts of “Palestine” between the Hamas butchers who run Gaza and the PLO butchers who run the West Bank.

    Israel, in my view, would be entirely within its rights to take back Gaza as well as the remaining unincorporated portions of the West Bank and declare both Israeli territory. The so-called “Palestinian” populations in both places should be forcibly expatriated to Syria, where, with any luck, their Arab “brothers” will obliterate them as part of the on-going general genocide now in progress there. Never let a “crisis” go to waste.

  • duheagle

    The Saudis and Israelis have gotten notably chummier in the past couple years. If the Israelis are helping the Saudis build nuclear weapons, one hopes they are doing so in a way that makes Israeli acquiescence a precondition for their use. Given the very considerable threat to both nations posed by a resurgent Iran determined to rebuild the long-dead Persian Empire, I find it hard to view such activity – should it actually be taking place – with much alarm. The Middle East would be a much-improved place if the Israelis and Saudis jointly administered a beheading to Iran.

  • duheagle

    Dream on.

  • Stu

    Well, illegal settlements for a start. The clue is in the word “illegal”.

  • Stu

    If they then beheaded themselves, I’df agree with you.

  • Stu

    “Never let a “crisis” go to waste.” <- That is the Zionist mantra, mind.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The problem with the area is the Palestianian’s won’t admit defeat and grant Israel a victory, and the problems with the Israeli’s is they won’t give the Palestinians a honorable defeat. In the 70’s and 80’s Israel was holding onto land they intended to grant to a Palestinian nation in exchange for living under Israeli economic control with no military to defend what they had left. It of course came close in the 90’s but we all know what happened. At the same time that was going on a upstart-crack pot out of Brooklyn left the NY Metropolitan area in the mid 80’s with the idea of taking all that land for Israel, and they got a lot of play. As for the Palestinians not being a people … well, in the bible they’re called Philistines. They go way back. But they lost, Israel won, is making much better use of the land, and they’re not going to be thrown off any time soon. The sooner the Palestinians can come to accept economic servitude to Israel and being defenceless the better off they’ll be.

  • Robert G. Oler

    they will never do that

  • Robert G. Oler

    the Israeli government is one of the most immoral in the region and they are kept that way by American money which they get in massive amounts

    If they had to float their own boat, they would come to a deal.

  • Robert G. Oler

    ridiculous comment. Iran is the gateway for democracy to the mideast

  • Robert G. Oler

    coming soon

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    And so it goes……

  • ThomasLMatula

    They would have to go a long way to match Turkey and it’s decades long campaign to eliminate the Kurds. Thank god President Trump was able to force them to release the American pastor they were holding as a political prisoner. Hopefully he will also be able to free the NASA engineer they have in jail.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Those are ridiculous comments. The Kurds are on the brink of a nation because of Turkish blood being spilled, obviously you dont know a thing about the PKK which is a terrorist organization..and we killed while we were in Iraq. The “pastor” was a political operative.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The European Court on Human Rights might disagree with that, which is why Turkey is being kept out of the EU.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Israel and the US suffer from much the same problem. Israel does not know what to do with their victory after Arabian wars of destruction. They’re stuck with what to do with their success. The US suffers much the same issue with it’s victory of the 20th Cen. Both grew up under threat both physical, intellectual, and moral. Both won, and don’t know what to do with that. Israel has marked time playing with Meier Kahane
    ism, secular humanism, and early 2000’s style republican vulcanism all at the same time. Both the US and Israel don’t have a real vision for themselves in the long term. Sure Israel has to deal with the annoyance of the Arabs, and to some degree so does the US, but it’s an annoyance and not a defining threat. In the end, neither side really knows where they’re going.

  • duheagle

    Illegal according to whom? There is no nation of Palestine. Theonly law applicable in the West Bank is that of Israel. If the government of Israel finds extant settlements okay, they are legal.

  • duheagle

    Iran is not a democracy just because it has a legislature any more than the Soviet Union was. Like the Soviet Union was, Iran is run by a cadre of self-selected old men who are answerable only to one another.

  • duheagle

    Seems to be the mantra of lots of folks, anti-semites included.

  • duheagle

    Israel is a free, civilized, prosperous nation beset by hordes of homicidal tribal barbarian religious fanatics. The rest of the nations in the region are repressive monarchies or theocracies. The only place outside Israel in the Middle East that isn’t a complete pesthole of tyranny is the Kurdish north in Iraq. If anyone is looking to stand up a new country in the region, it should be an independent Kurdistan, not a sociopathic Palestine.

    Things would be incomparably worse in the Middle East were it not for Israel’s presence. The money provided Israel by the U.S. gov’t. is not massive and saves us having to spend a lot more garrisoning the region to a much greater degree to keep the local nutbars in line.

    As for “deals,” the only one the so-called “Palestinians” want is for Israel to disappear. Israel has tried to make many “deals” with these unregenerate scum and have, in every case, been refused because the bottom line is always that Israel must cease to exist.

  • duheagle

    What’s ridiculous is you. The Kurds are on the brink of a nation because the U.S. protected Kurdish northern Iraq after Desert Storm and gave them the breathing space to set up and run a rump state there. The PKK are still a minor problem, but mostly to Turkey which has been trying to ethnically cleanse the Kurds for decades. The PKK doesn’t rule in northern Iraq or in the Kurdish-majority provinces of Iran either.

    I suppose you have to say such things publicly because you work in Turkey. As Kemalism is now a dead letter, there is no longer any real separation of church and state in Turkey. By the standard of Islamic nations in general, any representative of an “infidel” religion is also automatically a “political operative.”

  • duheagle

    Speak for yourself and the rest of academic leftist ennui. I’ve got a perfectly clear notion of where the U.S. needs to go in coming decades. It isn’t going to go there if it’s run by fools who think the U.S. has no real enemies or that the nation can be bent into arbitrary pretzel shapes without consequence.

  • duheagle

    Good luck with that. But the “Palestinians” are not the Philistines. The “Palestinians” are Arabs. There were essentially no Arabs in the region in biblical times, just a lot of peoples who have long since been either slaughtered and erased or absorbed by the Arabs who swept out of Arabia under the banners of Islam starting in the 7th century. Arabs are, in their essentials, still very much the tribal barbarians their ancestors were. Among tribal barbarians, the only final victory over another tribe is that of rendering the enemy extinct by killing the men and taking all the women and children into one’s own tribe. That’s what the “Palestinians” want, and will never get, anent Israel. Over a sufficiently long period of subordination, they might learn civilized patterns of thought and behavior, but not so long as they are permitted to pretend to self-rule and reinforce and renew their immemorial bloody-mindedness.

  • duheagle

    Eventually, they will either do it or they will all be killed. The world has pretty much run out of room for tribal barbarians to go on being tribal barbarians. The only real unknown is just how many tribal barbarians are going to have to be killed in order for the rest of them to get the message and start to behave. My suspicion is that the number will be quite impressively large.

  • duheagle

    Who’s “we,” by the way? Are you a Turkish national?

  • Robert G. Oler

    no. not at all. you dont undwerstand the situation at all here…sory. the PKK does not rule in Northern Iraq or Syria because the Turks with American help (we are helping now stopped them)

    you have no experience in the mideast. I do. 10 years last century and well so far 7 this century. dont talk about what you dont know.

  • Robert G. Oler

    lol thats all that tirade warrants

  • Stu

    Well there was no nation of Israel until the British and French handed it over…

  • Stu

    But since you ask, Illegal according to the United Nations.

  • Stu

    ahhh, there we go — I wondered how long until the “Anti-Semite” bomb was dropped. It is absolutely pathetic that no one can argue with Israeli policy for fear of being called anti-semite.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You’re right, people like you do know where you want to take the US. Transfer everything of value from the American industrial sector to foreign governments in exchange for their paper money. By the time the likes of you are done with your process of transferring American engineering know how to your Chinese masters, academics like me will be the only ones left with any industrial capability. But don’t worry, it’s good business.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I agree…the US was working “toward” a vision of itself post cold war under bush 41 and Clinton the guy…but Bush 43 killed that with his “empire of the mideast” thing

    the Israelis are able to “be bullys” because the US floats their economic situation a great deal…they have single payer healthcare etc, because we pay for their military

    the mideast now is going through a transformation where all the western created states are “ending” and that will include eventually Saudi Arabia and if they are not careful Israel.