Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford canceled a multistop trip to the Middle East, including a planned appearance at a Saudi investment conference this month, the company said on Sunday, the latest such cancellation after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The company did not elaborate on the reasons for Ford's decision not to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi -- a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Riyadh's policies -- were a factor.
Other executives who have dropped out of the conference include JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, Viacom Inc. CEO Bob Bakish and Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
The New York Times, which was a media sponsor of the conference, has pulled out. CNN announced on Friday that it's withdrawn its participation, while the Financial Times said it wouldn't partner with the event while Khashoggi's disappearance remains unexplained. Bloomberg LP has also pulled out of the event as a media partner, a spokesperson said.
President Donald Trump, who has forged a close relationship with the Saudi rulers, has said the U.S. is investigating the case and lawmakers have threatened to take action against the kingdom. Trump said he's disinclined to block arm sales to the Saudi government, as senators in his own party have suggested.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, said on Sunday it would retaliate against any punitive measures with even "stronger ones," according to a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. In a subtle reference to the kingdom's oil wealth, the statement noted how the Saudi economy "has an influential and vital role in the global economy."
The absence of media and technology executives is likely to case a shadow over the three-day event, dubbed "Davos in the Desert." It has become the biggest show for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform vision.
"Whilst it is disappointing that some speakers and partners have pulled out, we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of speakers, moderators and guests from all over the world to Riyadh," a Future Investment Initiative representative said last week.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.