On April 4, 2018, the richest man in the world and the leader of the world’s biggest oil-exporting nation met at a dinner party at a Hollywood producer’s house in Los Angeles and exchanged phone numbers.
“Hello MBS,” Jeff Bezos wrote in a text that evening.
“Hello, I saved the number,” replied Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — often known as “MBS” — the next morning.
One day earlier, The Washington Post, which the Amazon founder and CEO owns, had published a column by Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi that blasted the prince’s government, saying that “replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer.”
Four weeks later, on May 1, the prince sent Bezos a WhatsApp message containing a video in Arabic promoting Saudi Arabia’s telecom market.