PIF expand portfolio with investments in Disney and Facebook

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) have continued their spending spree with reported investments in some huge corporations.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the PIF have made significant investments in Walt Disney and Facebook – two of the most recognisable brands on the planet.

The report reads:

“Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has acquired stakes in The Walt Disney Co., Facebook, Starbucks and other large U.S. public companies in the past few months. The fund disclosed the stakes in a regulatory filing Friday afternoon.

“The PIF bought more than 5 million shares in Disney, which it valued at just under $500 million, and more than 3 million shares in Facebook for $520 million. The new acquisitions, which were bought on the public market, follow investments in two other companies hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic: Live Nation and Carnival Cruises.”

PIF Chairman Mohammed Bin Salman

It’s certainly been very interesting to see the wave of spending by the PIF under the banner of their Vision 2030 project. The acquisition of Newcastle United is by far the most public of all the investments and, as such, has drawn criticism from different areas – including journalists, human rights organisations and the fiance of Jamal Kashoggi.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that Facebook and Disney are far greater and far more notably organisations. The argument that the purchase of NUFC is different “because it’s football” is silly – there is no difference. If anything, this is worse.

In the sportswashing debate, the main point is that there will be thousands of passionate fans making the trip to St James’ Park to support their (PIF owned) team, therefore validating the Saudis and the PIF as a legitimate and fair organisation.

The purchase of Disney is no different, surely? While 52,000 fans turn up to St James’ Park every other week – Disney’s premier theme park in Florida average more than 50,000 visitors per day. They’re all buying merchandise, buying tickets, wearing Disney gear and thus, by the logic of sportswashing, validating and funding the PIF ownership, no?

The same goes for Facebook – each time you download the app and click on it, allowing Facebook to earn money by sharing adverts with you, you’re doing the same thing, are you not?

So why is there no opposition to these deals? Why has there been no letters from Amnesty International and the likes to the US Government, or to Facebook, or to Disney? To me, there’s very little difference.

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