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WWE will hold Saudi Arabia event as planned

The announcement comes weeks after journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared.

October 25, 2018 - 7:22 pm

By Jill Disis, CNN Business

(CNN) -- WWE says it will go ahead with plans to host an upcoming wrestling event in Saudi Arabia next month.

The company's announcement about the "Crown Jewel" show comes more than three weeks after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never resurfaced.

The Saudi government says he died there, though the country has shifted its explanation about why that happened. On Thursday, the country's attorney general said Khashoggi's killing was premeditated.

READ: Upcoming WWE show in Saudi Arabia sparks controversy

The incident prompted several companies to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia this month. Many executives, including top names from JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Uber and Blackrock (BLK), pulled out of an investment conference that was held this week in Riyadh.

WWE  has stayed relatively quiet until now, telling reporters last week that it was "monitoring the situation." But the company said in a quarterly earnings release Thursday that it would "uphold its contractual obligations" and host the event as planned.

"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base," the company said. "Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh."

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The wrestling company has worked with Saudi Arabia for years — its first live events there were held in early 2014.

But the relationship has grown even more complex in recent months. This spring, WWE touted a "Greatest Royal Rumble" event in the kingdom featuring several of its biggest stars. WWE noted at the time that the show was part of a 10-year partnership in support of Vision 2030, an ambitious plan led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernize Saudi Arabia's economy.

Other companies have been forced to re-examine their ties to the kingdom, too. Last week, a source told CNN that the media conglomerate Endeavor was exploring pulling out of a $400 million deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

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