Khashoggi’s disappearance has become a litmus test for business
allegation that Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who wrote for
The Washington Post, was brutally murdered at the hands of Saudi
officials has forced executives to reckon with their ties to the
Arab kingdom. Some, like Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, have suspended
business dealings there. Several, including
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, have backed
out of the high-profile Future Investment Initiative conference in
like Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of the powerful philanthropic
investment group Emerson Collective, which owns
a majority stake in The Atlantic, the ties
are more nuanced — and perhaps more complicated.
does not have business dealings with Saudi Arabia. She was never
scheduled to attend the Future Investment Initiative. But one of her
closest aides at Emerson, Michael Klein, is a highly influential
power broker for the Saudi kingdom and its U.S. investments.
Wall Street rainmaker and former Citigroup
executive, is a managing
partner at Emerson and helps manage the
company's business, which includes investments in a variety of media
properties such as Axios and OZY Media in addition to its majority
stake in The Atlantic. Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The
Atlantic, declined to comment.
Klein, who runs
his own boutique investing firm, M. Klein & Company, is also a
top adviser to the Saudi
kingdom's Public Investment Fund and a key
conduit between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. business community,
according to multiple people who know him and are familiar with his
business. They asked not to be identified so as not to jeopardize
their relationships to Klein or Emerson.
Powell Jobs has
known Klein since college, even before she met her husband Steve
Jobs, the late Apple co-founder and CEO. In addition to handling
business affairs for Emerson, those familiar with Klein describe him
as an informal adviser to Powell Jobs.
"He’s kind of
the final voice in Laurene’s ear," said one source with knowledge of
for Emerson declined to comment on the ties.
Klein is hardly
the only Wall Street powerbroker to work with Saudi Arabia. But he
may be the only one to serve at an organization like Emerson. While
other media organizations, including The New York Times, CNBC,
Bloomberg and Financial Times, have backed out of the Future
Investment Initiative due to Khashoggi's disappearance, Klein has
played a key role in bringing the annual summit together. Some
sources described him as the event's unofficial "organizer."
Ahead of last
year's inaugural summit, Klein advised Saudi Arabia on its
$20 billion investment in a U.S. infrastructure fund managed
by Blackstone, which was one of the main draws of the first FII
conference. Sources familiar with that event say Klein also helped
bring business leaders and Wall Street power brokers to Riyadh that
year, and was at the center of all the action.
for Klein declined to say whether he is still planning to attend
this year's conference and said he was not an organizer of this
year's event or last year's event, nor does he sit on any of this
year’s event advisory boards.
Klein also has
a relationship with Saudi oil giant Aramco through his advisory
work for Dow Chemical, and sources said he advised Aramco on
restructuring for a planned IPO that was expected
to be the biggest IPO in world history. The plan was called
off earlier this year when the wealth fund
decided to sell a stake of the petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic
Industries Corp. to Aramco — a deal Klein was also brought in to
For Klein, as
for many bankers and business leaders, Khashoggi’s disappearance
forces an uncomfortable question: Whether it is acceptable to keep
doing business with the Saudi kingdom if — as Turkish officials
allege — the kingdom sent 15 officials into the country to kill
Khashoggi and dispose of his body.
Jobs, it may force a different sort of question: Whether it is
acceptable to do business with a man — a friend — even if he is
working with the perpetrators of that alleged murder.
15, 2018, 1:12 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article
misspelled the name of the founder of Emerson Collective in the
headline. She is Laurene Powell Jobs, not Lauren.