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Tue 29 Oct 2019 11:08 AM

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Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim denies it owes money to Will.i.am's tech company

Will.i.am and Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani will discuss the ongoing partnership between the two companies at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh today

Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim denies it owes money to Will.i.am's tech company

The partnership will see i.am+ provide shoppers with voice-based AI powered assistance via a device called Omega that resembles Amazon’s Alexa.


Dubai-based retail giant Majid Al Futtaim has shut down reported claims by Will.i.am’s tech company i.am+ that it has yet to fill its financial obligations to the Hollywood firm with regards to a partnership between the two companies to build a firm the size of Amazon in the UAE.

In documents and emails acquired by The Verge, i.am+ co-founder and CEO Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan said a deal signed by the American rapper’s company and Majid Al Futtaim in February has been delayed for nine months due to insufficient funds, with i.am+ “caught in [MAF’s] internal process and waiting on the release of funds,” and the company “speaking with [MAF] everyday and pushing it aggressively to receive funds now,” Rathakrishnan said, adding that there is “no question or risk” that i.am+ will be paid.

But in a statement to Arabian Business, Majid Al Futtaim said it has fulfilled all financial obligations towards Will.i.am’s company i.am+.

“In 2018, Majid Al Futtaim began its partnership with i.am+ to bring its Omega technology to customers in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. While we have already started embedding the technology within Majid Al Futtaim’s digital offerings, we are also exploring a new lifestyle proposition together. To date, Majid Al Futtaim has fulfilled all commercial and financial obligations towards i.am+ for the work undertaken,” the statement said.

When contacted by Arabian Business, i.am+ said its management team is travelling and is unable to comment, but said Will.i.am and Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani will discuss the ongoing partnership between the two companies at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh today.

Omega voice

The partnership will see i.am+ provide shoppers with voice-based AI powered assistance via a device called Omega that resembles Amazon’s Alexa. 

However documents acquired by The Verge also showed that smart home platform Wink, which was acquired by the American rapper in 2017, is running out of money and has not paid workers in seven weeks, with one resorting to delivering pizzas to pay for expenses.

Moreover, i.am+, which was founded by Will.i.am in 2012 and sells wireless earbuds and smart watches, failed to close a deal in May with wireless earbud start-up Earin, which said the acquisition “stalled due to unfulfilled obligations,” according to The Verge.

In August, the US federal government also filed a lien (government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt) showing i.am+ owes $1.8 million in delinquent taxes and interest, according to documents filed with the California secretary of state.

Will.i.am was in Dubai last week for a performance at the opening ceremony of a robotics challenge. 

A seven-time Grammy Award winner, Will.i.am is a rapper, producer and creative innovator, and co-founder of the band The Black Eyed Peas.

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