Saudi financial conference opens in U.S. with star-studded cast

Andreessen, Peltz, Neumann, Mnuchin and Kushner take to stage at Future Investment Initiative’s two-day Global Priority Summit in Miami

The Circuit

Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative is running a miniature version of its annual Davos-in-the-Desert business conference in Miami.

The two days of panel discussions and high-level networking brings together a cast of prominent U.S. investors including Silicon Valley’s Marc Andreessen, Wall Street’s Nelson Peltz and Josh Harris, and WeWork and Flow founder Adam Neumann. Top Saudi figures at the FII’s Global Priority Summit include the governor of the kingdom’s $650 billion Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Princess Reema Bint Bandar.

The Miami confab also attracted senior Trump administration figures, including Jared Kushner, the former White House senior policy advisor, and ex-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Both run investment funds backed by Al-Rumayyan’s sovereign wealth fund and were the subjects of a New York Times story published on the conference’s first day that revealed additional Gulf investors to their funds. 

Kushner is scheduled to speak today about the prospects for extending the Arab-Israeli normalization agreements known as the Abraham Accords that he spearheaded at the White House in 2020.

In his appearance on Thursday, Mnuchin spoke mostly about the U.S. economy and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which was rescued and sold off by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

“I think this was a complete failure of management and it was also a failure of the regulators,” Mnuchin remarked. “This should have been seen way in advance, and it should never have occurred.”

Al-Rumayyan, who opened the conference and is chairman of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s national oil company, opened the proceedings with Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez in an onstage chat. In October, Suarez spoke at the main FII conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and announced the agreement to host FII in Miami.

Speaking as head of the sovereign wealth fund, Al-Rumayyan said he expects the PIF to grow to $1 trillion in assets by 2025 and at least $2 trillion by 2030. As head of Aramco, whose 2022 net income of $161 billion was the highest in the world of any publicly traded company, Al-Rumayyan said the shift to sustainable energy sources has to be handled gradually.

Because of climate change concerns, he said, “some of the governments around the world bullied the oil and gas companies.” Al-Rumayyan said the world needs to recognize that “it takes time to have a transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” adding that “oil, gas and fossil fuels are not such a bad thing.”

Also speaking at the conference was Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of the upstart LIV Golf tournament, which is backed by the Saudi investment fund and has been sued by the PGA tour for poaching its stars.

Norman dismissed questions about the new golf tournament’s viability and said he was confident LIV would survive its battle with the PGA.

“A monopolist doesn’t like to be taken off its pedestal,” he said. “We’re not going to go anywhere.”