Roy Gilbert

The prince, the billionaire and the Amazon project that got frozen in the desert

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Amazon and Saudi Arabia looked like perfect partners. Both had ambitions to become even more prominent players in the global economy. The world’s biggest store and the world’s second-biggest oil producer moved aggressively in the past few years toward a $1 billion deal to build Amazon data centers in the desert kingdom.

But in the year since Saudi operatives killed Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident who wrote columns for The Washington Post, the partnership appears to have stalled. No data centers are under construction. Amazon officials say there has been no movement on a deal this year. And when executives from dozens of major U.S. companies stream into Riyadh on Tuesday for an investment conference marking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s return to the world stage, neither Amazon founder Jeff Bezos nor any of his top executives will be there, according to an Amazon official familiar with the company’s plans.

Although no one on either side is willing to declare the ties between Amazon and the Saudis permanently severed, the freeze in what had been a promising relationship came about following a rapid-fire sequence of chilling events: After Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul, the planet’s richest man, who also owns The Post, became the target of waves of criticism from Saudi-based online trolls.

And after the National Enquirer published an exposé earlier this year detailing Bezos’s extramarital affair, the billionaire revealed that the Enquirer had threatened to publish explicit photos of him unless he publicly stated that there had been no political motivation […]

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