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Dan Doctoroff second high-profile tech leader to say he isn’t joining Saudi Arabia’s megacity as an adviser

Dan Doctoroff, chief executive officer of Sidewalk Labs LLC, smiles while speaking during an event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Cole Burston/Bloomberg
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Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, is not joining Saudi Arabia’s megacity project as an adviser.

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Doctoroff’s name was included on a list of prominent tech leaders advising the panel released on Tuesday, and the official Neom Twitter account said he was joining the group. However, Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for Sidewalk Labs, said that list is not accurate.

“Dan Doctoroff’s inclusion on that list is incorrect. He is not a member of the NEOM advisory board,” said Levitan.

The list initially issued by Neom included tech heavyweights such as Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Apple design chief Jony Ive. On Tuesday, Ive stepped back from the board, and his name was promptly removed from Neom’s website. As of publication, Doctoroff was still listed as an adviser on Neom’s site. Neom did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Neom is a proposed futuristic US$500-billion city championed by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman which is intended to be built on 26,500 square metres in northwest Saudi Arabia.

It will be laid out on cross-border territory covering 26,000 square kilometres—10 times the size of New York City—in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Sidewalk Labs proposed futuristic development on Toronto’s waterfront, by contrast, is just 12 acres.

Bin Salman has faced intense scrutiny this week following the disappearance and alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi special forces.

This comes amid ongoing diplomatic tensions between between Canada and Saudi Arabia that have included the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador as well as the suspension of Saudi investment in Canada.

Carlo Ratti, an Italian architect who sits on an advisory panel advising on the smart city development in Toronto involving Sidewalk Labs, was also announced as part of the Saudi panel. Ratti did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Following initial publication of this article, former U.S. secretary of energy Ernest Moniz said he was stepping down from the board. In an email obtained by Business Insider, Moniz said he was invited to join the advisory panel six months ago.

“Given current events, I am suspending my participation on the NEOM board. Going forward, my engagement with the advisory board will depend on learning all the facts about Jamal Khashoggi‘s disappearance over the coming days and weeks.”

Billing it as a new Silicon Valley, Saudi authorities say Neom’s economy will be based around the nearby Red Sea, which is home to 10 per cent of the world’s trade flows, and technology industries including robotics and artificial intelligence.

Klaus Kleinfeld, former chief executive of Siemens AG, has been tapped to run Neom, and bin Salman said the government will aim to make the city powered completely by renewable energy.