• Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi “a mistake.”
  • Speaking to “Axios on HBO,” Khosrowshahi defended his company’s ties to the Saudi state, which represents Uber’s fifth-largest investor.
  • “I think that government said that they made a mistake,” Khosrowshahi said of Khashoggi’s killing at the hands of Saudi agents. “People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven, I think that they’ve taken it seriously.”
  • Khosrowshahi later clarified to Axios in an email that Khashoggi’s murder was “reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”
  • Khosrowshahi is one of the few tech executives that skipped Saudi Arabia’s annual investment conference this year, though he said it was due to an apparent scheduling conflict.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi “a mistake,” though he later clarified that Saudi actions were “reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”

During an interview with “Axios on HBO,” which aired on Sunday night, Khosrowshahi discussed the impact of Khashoggi’s murder on his decision not to attend Saudi Arabia’s annual investment conference last year. He previously said that he was “very troubled” by reports on Khashoggi’s murder and canceled his appearance at the forum.

Khosrowshahi did not attend this year’s conference either, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is one of Uber’s largest shareholders.

“Did you not go this year because of the Khashoggi situation?” Dan Primack, Axios’ Business Editor, asked Khosrowshahi.

"We had a board meeting at the same time," Khosrowshahi responded.

"Well that's convenient," Primack countered, "but you're the CEO, you probably could have rescheduled that."

"We schedule board meetings years and years ahead," Khosrowshahi answered, adding that he wasn't sure if he would have gone to this year's conference even if there wasn't an apparent scheduling conflict.

Primack also asked about Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund who sits on Uber's board of directors.

"He represents and works for a government, which you believe had a role in the murder of a journalist who was a US resident. Should that person be on the board of a US company?" Primack asked.

"I think that government said that they made a mistake," Khosrowshahi responded.

"We've made mistakes too," he added, referencing his company's experimentation with self driving cars, a program which it recently pulled out of following the death of a pedestrian in Arizona.

Saudi future investment fund

Foto: Delegates wait in line ahead of a session during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum at the King Abdulaziz Conference Centre in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, on October 29, 2019. - Top finance moguls and political leaders were expected at a Davos-style Saudi investment summit, in stark contrast to last year when outrage over critic Jamal Khashoggi's murder sparked a mass boycott. Organisers say 300 speakers from over 30 countries, including American officials and heads of global banks and major sovereign wealth funds, are attending the three-day forum.sourceFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

"People make mistakes, it doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven, I think that they've taken it seriously," Khosrowshahi said. "[Saudi Arabia] is just like any other shareholder. Now we're a public company, anyone can invest in our company if they choose to do so."

Following the interview, Khosrowshahi backtracked on his comments in an email to Axios.

"I said something in the moment that I do not believe," he wrote. "When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused."

Uber was one of many companies that chose to boycott Saudi Arabia's investment conference - also referred to as Davos in the Desert - last year in response to news about Khashoggi's disappearance and subsequent murder at the hands of Saudi agents. The CIA reportedly concluded in November 2018 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing.

One year after the brutal assassination plot, there are now audio recordings, Saudi admissions, and a 100-page UN report that reveal stunning details about the Kingdom's alleged role in the execution plot and its extensive cover-up attempts.

Despite credible evidence which ties the Saudi government to the murder, many of the businesses and officials who distanced themselves from Saudi Arabia last year have since made amends. Over 150 executives across the world, including those from Blackstone Group, Citigroup, BlackRock, World Bank, and Virgin Hyperloop One attended this year's conference, casting aside political apprehension.