Wall Street's Social Calendar Swells as Summer Tee Times Beckon
(Bloomberg) -- What does Wall Street do before disappearing for a few months of golf, tennis and beach-side soirees?
Binge on benefits, of course. Because there’s no better way to earn some rest and relaxation than by enduring lukewarm entrees, too-long speeches and too many air kisses, all while raising money for nonprofits.
Not to be jaded or anything. As Robert Steel said of his recent binge, attending an event for Hospital for Special Surgery, which he serves as a co-chairman with Thomas Lister of Permira, “They’re like my children, I love them all.”
One advantage of New York this time of year is that some of the benefits are outdoors. The Public Theater convened with roller skaters at the Delacorte Theater where it presents Shakespeare. Palm trees swayed in light Bronx breezes as the New York Botanical Garden raised almost $2.2 million and honored Chairwoman emerita Maureen Chilton.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, went south to the Central Park Zoo, where the sea lions squealed and fed on fish.
That wasn’t wild enough for Paul Tudor Jones.
“One day -- it’s on my bucket list -- I want to go up to the Arctic and see a polar bear,” Jones said. “I have a huge spot for them in my heart because they’re always hungry looking for something to eat. I want them to find a washed-up whale and eat forever.”
Julian Robertson said he’d gone eye-to-eye with his dog Bear earlier in the evening, while Averell Harriman Mortimer reminisced about the flying squirrels he kept as a kid in his Manhattan apartment.
“Running Goldman Sachs equipped me for dealing with all species and manners of wildlife,” Lloyd Blankfein said.
“Some of whom are endangered,” added Goldman Sachs lead director and private equity investor Adebayo Ogunlesi.
In the Summer Garden & Bar at Rockefeller Center, Leon Black and his wife, Debra, joined Mike Milken and more than a thousand leveraged-finance professionals at a benefit for the Melanoma Research Alliance, which the Blacks founded. Then he presided at the Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden to honor Alice Tisch and others. A day later, Black was at the Central Park Conservancy’s Taste of Summer, where Italian bistro Sistina served ravioli.
The most important stat on his gala scorecard?
“We’re up more than 20%,” Black said at the melanoma event, crediting Jeff Rowbottom of PSP Investments and Brendan Dillon of UBS for helping raise $2.4 million. The alliance’s funding has played a role in 12 drugs that received government approval.
Andrew Tsai of Chalkstream Capital Group (named for the rivers in England where he learned fly fishing) said breakthroughs in treating skin cancers are leading to therapies for other types of the disease. He’s working to make that happen as co-chairman of the Cancer Research Institute, which has focused on immunotherapy for more than 50 years.
“I want to make sure we do not stop until every single cancer type has been addressed in a significant way,” Tsai said at the institute’s Through the Kitchen benefit, where guests served themselves from buffets set up in the kitchen of the Pool & the Grill, then dined at comic strip-themed tables (Ken Langone sat with a cardboard cutout of Betty Boop).
During dinner at the French consulate for the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance, Bill Ackman committed $4.2 million to seven investigators, including Yael David, who studies how cancer cells react to sugar.
As for those speeches, some managed to cut through the chatter.
For an audience including David Einhorn and Marc Spilker, outgoing New 42nd Street President Cora Cahan described how the rigor of her modern dance career guided her in bringing a theater for families -- the New Victory -- to a seedy block.
“Every day you dared not be satisfied,” she said. “And the next day you tried to do it all a little bit better, a little bit deeper, and a little bit higher.”
The transformation of the New York Public Library, a few blocks east on 42nd Street, was also celebrated when Carnegie Hall presented its Medal of Excellence to Vartan Gregorian, head of the Carnegie Corporation.
Author Robert Caro recalled what it was like to write “The Power Broker” at the library in the early ’70s, when hours were being cut, plywood covered marble and soot hid the beauty of the facade. He said things changed in the ’80s when Gregorian became the library’s president, which Caro discovered when he pulled up to the library with his wife to attend a gala.
“There were three guys standing there in red English hunting coats, holding French horns,” Caro said. “As Ina and I got out of the car, they blew a fanfare.”
Singer Lizzo blew out a speaker while performing at a UJA-Federation of New York benefit and she was even better without it at the event honoring IHeartRadio executives.
Ethan Hawke, who appeared at a benefit for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, cut to the chase. “If a place like BAM doesn’t exist, then the mental health of all of NYC is deteriorating,” Hawke said.
He could have been speaking at any number of fundraisers around town: the one for Prep for Prep that raised $3.8 million honoring Paul Taubman, the Moth Ball supporting the therapeutic process of storytelling where guests included Adam Dell and Scott Lawin, the 92nd Street Y benefit with seven dinners highlighting a different way the institution serves the community (from summer camps to jewelry classes; Thomas Kaplan hosted one on foreign affairs).
Robert Smith emphasized the power of live music to level the playing field. The Apollo Theater’s stage is a meritocracy because “regardless of who you are or where you came from, by the end of the set, you know exactly how good you are,” he said in a video that played at a benefit for the Harlem venue.
On another night, Smith joked he and guests had finally made it by getting to have dinner on the stage of Carnegie Hall. But then he clarified. “For us, making it isn’t just dining on the stage,” he said. “It’s taking this hall to thousands of people every single year through the artistic and educational programming that we’ve been able to build, support and sustain.”
--With assistance from Sophie Alexander.
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