The Secret Retreats That Have CEOs, VIPs and Billionaires Jockeying for Invites - Kanebridge News
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The Secret Retreats That Have CEOs, VIPs and Billionaires Jockeying for Invites

Ultra exclusive conferences are booming. In Sicily, Aspen and Stockholm, Elon Musk and Margot Robbie mingle with bank leaders and media moguls. ‘There’s always another VIP level.’

By SARA ASHLEY O’BRIEN, EMILY GLAZER, JESSICA TOONKEL
Mon, Apr 22, 2024 10:04amGrey Clock 7 min

The crowd at the St. Regis hotel in Aspen, Colo., on one weekend last fall was handpicked, and if you had to ask to be invited, you wouldn’t be on the list. Guests, including Ron Howard, Karlie Kloss and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon , were given Barbour vests, offered a walk-and-talk with Olympic running champion Allyson Felix, take a golf clinic with professional golfer Michael Block or bike with Gen. David Petraeus. The bike route climbs more than 2,000 feet starting from an 8,500-foot elevation.

One morning, a man in his 50s in a dark sweater was speaking to a group, while his security staff stood off to one side, an attendee recalled. He was Elon Musk , talking with the author of his newly released biography, Walter Isaacson , in an off-the-record conversation moderated by CBS anchor Gayle King. It was one of the hottest tickets on a packed agenda at the ultra exclusive and secretive conference known as the Weekend, co-hosted by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel and other business, tech and finance leaders.

Musk and others attending the Weekend, and gatherings like it, get to exist for a brief time in a buffered safe space where CEOs, celebrities, athletes and political leaders know that no one will tweet a photo of them working out or waiting in line for Champagne. They are invitation-only, and attendees often arrive via private jet and tinted-out SUVs. The talks are off the record. No one who goes cares what it costs.

“There aren’t that many places for these people to have these conversations,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff , who hosts his own intimately curated gatherings of business leaders and has attended other people’s as well. (In the parlour game of invitations, his dinners can feel like a rung up from anything called a conference.)

It has been 40-plus years since Allen & Co. put on its first so-called summer camp for the billionaire set in Sun Valley, Idaho, now an executive’s rite of passage, and more and smaller and intimate ultra-VIP conferences are exploding on the scene—from media mogul and venture investor Jeffrey Katzenberg ’s in Montecito, Calif., to restaurateur Danny Meyer’s in Tuscany. There are new ones popping up nearly every month.

Helping fuel the desire for invitations is the lore of what Sun Valley has spawned: Sam Altman   connected with his most important investor, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella , at Allen & Co.’s annual July conference; Disney finance chief Christine McCarthy and CEO Bob Iger got some facetime over lunch at the same event a different year, a few months before Disney’s board ousted CEO Bob Chapek and reinstated Iger; Jeff Bezos ’ purchase of the Washington Post stems back to Sun Valley moments.

The newer events make the World Economic Forum’s Davos—with its pop-up media spaces and Getty photographers scattered about—look like a Vegas trade expo. There is a summer excursion to Stockholm for the humbly named Brilliant Minds gathering hosted by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek ’s foundation, which some attendees consider the most fun in the elite event lineup.

The Weekend in Aspen is in September, pre-ski season, but invitees to boutique bank LionTree’s conference called MediaSlopes head to Deer Valley, in Park City, Utah, in March and skiing is abundant in Davos in January. Google’s annual VIP camp has been held in Sicily at a resort with four outdoor thalassotherapy pools. The Brilliant Minds gathering included a cruise around Stockholm’s archipelago, and MediaSlopes offered high-intensity exercise classes taught by the CEO of video game company Take-Two, Strauss Zelnick , who prides himself on his physique. There is usually a concert—the Killers and John Mayer have played MediaSlopes (anyone who goes just calls it Slopes).

This account is based on interviews with people who attended the gatherings, event materials and social-media posts.

Benioff, who also owns Time, has attended the Weekend and Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley event, but says he “can’t do them all” and loves to host his own, even more exclusive events.

At Benioff’s gatherings, there is usually “a small group of somewhere between 25 and 35 people around a table,” he said, adding that he’s hired people he has met at such events. At a recent one, restaurateur Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin prepared the food and briefly spoke with attendees. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld performed and so has Japanese rock star and fashion designer Yoshiki. The gatherings have taken place in New York, Japan, Australia, France and the U.K .

Always a celebrity chef, he said. “We actually end up with a regular set of celebrities and entertainment who are our favourites, and there’s just people we feel very connected to,” Benioff said. “There’s the right level of quality.”

Who’s invited, and where?

At last year’s Slopes, which attendees call the cool Sun Valley, Margot Robbie swapped her Barbie pink for black to be jointly interviewed with Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz by LionTree Chairman and CEO Aryeh Bourkoff. Bourkoff has been one of the most prolific dealmakers in media, including as a lead banker in AT&T ’s 2022 $43 billion spinoff of Warner Media to Discovery. This year, Lionel Richie performed.

The competitive juices flow, too. Univision CEO Wade Davis has won annual slalom races. And there is a game-show style quiz focused on trends in tech, telecom and media. This year included the question: Who is the biggest streamer? (Answer: YouTube)

The Verdura resort, with “230 hectares of sun-kissed Mediterranean coastline” in southern Sicily, has been home base for what’s known as Google camp in recent years—the tech giant’s annual, invite-only retreat.

Google camp’s theme for 2024, according to a bare-bones website, is artificial intelligence’s role in scientific breakthroughs and addressing global challenges. The site doesn’t say if this summer’s camp will also be in Sicily.

Alicia Keys performed one year on a stage set against ancient ruins. YouTube star Lilly Singh snapped a photo amid the ruins with actress Charlize Theron. “We’re going to change the world. @charlizeafrica   #GenEndIt   #GirlLove ,” @Lilly posted on Instagram. Google owns YouTube.

Google said the majority of guests are customers and partners of Google and discussion sessions make up most of camp. It wouldn’t confirm names.

Jolie Hunt , who advises CEOs among others as founder of marketing and communications firm Hunt & Gather, said she increasingly fields calls from executives and powerful people about which VIP conferences are worth their time, alongside how to get a Birkin bag and book the best driver for Davos.

Part of building the allure of the events is the selective invite lists, with nobody there to pitch their agenda out of turn, some attendees said. Organisers manage the guest list, looking for buzz and mix, and asking for an invite isn’t a good look.

Midnight sun in Sweden

If Sicily didn’t make the calendar, summer’s lineup also includes Stockholm’s Brilliant Minds gathering—the brainchild of Spotify CEO Ek and Swedish entrepreneur Ash Pournouri, who hosted the first one in 2015 before establishing a foundation by the same name three years later.

Actor Jared Leto, Reddit co-founder and startup investor Alexis Ohanian and VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk were among 2022 attendees who boarded a boat for a tour around Stockholm’s archipelago that included a stop on one of the islands for dinner. Their cocktails were garnished with slices of fresh watermelon, and they took in a private concert by Florence & the Machine.

The intention is to bring together creative and influential figures with a goal of creating an impact, a representative for the organisation said. Brilliant Minds’ theme this year is “Discovery,” and so far, Harvard Business School’s Debora Spar , self-help personality Jay Shetty and Stockholm School of Economics Wellbeing, Welfare and Happiness professor Micael Dahlen are expected to present. Past attendees include former President Obama, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, Snap’s Evan Spiegel , NBA All-Star Draymond Green and Malala Yousafzai.

Anu Duggal, founding partner of the Female Founders Fund who has attended Brilliant Minds and interviewed Trevor Noah and Yousafzai there, said the formal programming runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., adding that the gathering emphasises bringing people together through fun experiences. “They take advantage of the natural beauty of Sweden,” noting the late sunsets at that time of year. Her firm invested in a startup that took part in a pitch competition where she served as a judge.

Stagecraft opportunities

Sometimes attending Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference is about making a very public statement from a very secluded place. Bill Gates used the gathering in 2021 as a soft launch for his return to public after the announcement of his divorce from longtime wife Melinda French Gates . Gates was spotted walking and chatting with Evan Greenberg , CEO of insurance giant Chubb . Gates wore khakis and a navy sweater, and both business leaders had white name tags.

In the summer of 2021, as reports emerged of a deteriorating partnership between Facebook ’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and then-Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg , the two appeared in photos strolling together along the lush grounds. Sandberg, in a T-shirt with the words “just love” scrawled in cursive, smiled as Zuckerberg, in a navy hoodie, looked at her, also smiling.

Marc Ganis, founder and president of the sports-industry consulting firm Sportscorp, said he has been attending more invite-only retreats or gatherings than ever before, estimating he attends three or four a year in addition to industry-specific events.

“This is where the ideas for business can be developed,” said Ganis. “What makes one better than the other is who actually attends.”

A relative newcomer is an invite-only conference for sports executives put on by Bruin Capital and Penske Media’s Sportico held on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Bruin CEO George Pyne and Penske Media CEO Jay Penske bring together about 150 attendees including billionaires, commissioners, team owners and investors to play golf and talk about more than sports. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the former prime ministers of New Zealand and Finland, Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin , spoke this year—the event’s third year—as did former Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian .

The world’s biggest advertising agency, WPP, calls Stream, its invite-only event for about 300 invitees, an “unconference.” Attendees, this year in Santa Barbara, Calif., determine discussion topics, which have included “Should we teach robots how to lie?” Its website describes “two days of off-record debate alongside dancing robots; slam poetry; drone races; a space launch” and more.

WPP CEO Mark Read says the event is unique for its lack of PowerPoint slides and that the idea is to foster chance meetings among people in the business. In 2023, Linda Yaccarino spoke after Musk at Stream—a few days before she resigned from NBCUniversal and Musk announced her as X’s new CEO. Also last year, Paris Hilton ran a breakout group, said Read. “We had one famous music executive who turned up and couldn’t deal with the lack of structure and left,” he said.

The surge in exclusive events comes as the World Economic Forum’s conference, held in January in Davos, Switzerland, has ballooned over the past several years. In 2024, more than 800 CEOs and chairs attended Davos, in addition to government leaders and others, according to a WEF spokesperson.

Musk has knocked Davos, tweeting in December 2022 : “My reason for declining the Davos invitation was not because I thought they were engaged in diabolical scheming, but because it sounded boring af lol.” Organisers for the World Economic Forum later said Musk was not among the invited.

But at the Weekend in 2022 Musk got personal. During a conversation with Carlyle Co-Chairman David Rubenstein as Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was pending, Musk said he lost 25 pounds, attendees recounted. He said—in a self-deprecating way—that topless photos of him on a yacht from the summer that circulated around the internet motivated him to lose weight, which he said he did through intermittent fasting.

“It’s craziest when you’re around people like this—there’s always another Champagne room, always another VIP level,” one attendee said, and quipped: “Even the CEO of Goldman Sachs isn’t treated like a VIP. That’s a third-tier guest.”



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .