An array of high-profile business and technology leaders, including a senior executive from Google's parent company and the former CEO of Uber, were named to a new advisory board for the Saudi Arabian government on Tuesday, even as controversy swirls over the disappearance of a dissident Saudi journalist.
On Tuesday, the Saudi news outlet Argaam reported that Neom — a $500 billion megacity project being built by the country — has formed a new 19-member advisory board. Members include 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.
The list published by Argaam included Apple's chief design officer Jony Ive, but after reporters reached out to individuals about their involvement, his name was quietly removed from the list, and the announcement was changed to promote a panel of 18 advisors rather than the initial 19. An Apple spokesperson said that the executive's inclusion was a mistake, and he has no involvement in the project.
While Saudi Arabia was trumpeting its list of high-profile tech advisors, 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 says that Turkish authorities are focused on a black van seen leaving the consulate that they believe was carrying Khashoggi's body.
The panel of tech and policy bigwigs will presumably help turn the sci-fi-like vision of Neom into a reality. According to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Neom will provide a "civilizational leap for humanity" with a foundation of robots, AI and renewable energy.
Business Insider reached out to the members of the advisory board for comment about their involvement and whether they would remain on the board following Khashoggi's disappearance, and will update this story if they respond. (Timothy Collins, Janvan Hest, and Rob Speyer could not be reached for comment.)
Here was the initial 19-member list, according to Argaam (including Ive):
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 Advisors
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 Company
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 Foundation
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 officer
19) Peter Voser, chairman of ABB.