SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son condemned Monday's assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, but signaled that the world's most powerful startup investor would not change his relationship with the kingdom.
In his first public statements on Khashoggi's death more than a month ago, Son denounced the attack, but said his Japanese conglomerate had a "responsibility" to continue investing the Saudis' money against the Saudi government.
"We want those responsible to be held accountable. At the same time, however, we have taken on responsibility towards the people of Saudi Arabia – a commitment that we take very seriously – to help them manage their financial resources and diversify their economies, "Son said at a SoftBank presentation in Tokyo. "As awful as this event was, we can not turn our back on the Saudi peoples as we work to support them in their continuing efforts to reform and modernize their society."
The son said SoftBank had "condemned this act against humanity as well as journalism and freedom of expression. That was a terrible and deeply regrettable act. "
His son's comments have made it clear that he does not intend to completely reject his relationship with the Saudis, who have already committed to supporting SoftBank's planned next tech investment fund. And by making this an attempt to help the Saudi people, no matter how frustrating it is with his unselected royal family, Son is late in trying to claim a moral climax.
The killing of Khashoggi triggered the relationship between the business world and Saudi Arabia, which until recently had worked to improve its relationship with Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Many executives planning to attend a marquee financial conference in RIyadh in the weeks following his death came to a halt, including SoftBank-backed CEOs such as Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi.
However, SoftBank remained very cautious during the controversy and for a long time refused to see Son even appear at the conference. Son said on Monday that he had finally visited the country, but not the conference, to share his concerns about Khashoggi's murder with high-ranking Saudi officials.
Sonden's silence made sense from a business perspective, as his $ 100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund relied on the Saudis for $ 45 billion – but it was sustainable only for so long. He would eventually have to make public comments, and Son presented the incident at the beginning of his remarks on Monday unsolicited.
To the question of a reporter after his speech, whether he would take Saudi money in future sight funds, Son would not say directly. However, he told a second reporter that he would pay attention to how the Saudis explain the death of Khashoggi.
"For the new cases or new projects, we want to watch carefully the outcome of the case," he said. "And as soon as the explanation is complete, we will think about it."