The private symposia of the rich and powerful

This extract from Carlos Slim by Diego Osorno left me wondering how many private symposia are organised each year, for the edification of high level managers or the amusement of the rich. There are scholarship programs and think tanks organised by the ultra-rich which have senior academics as their directors. For example Nigel Thrift left Warwick to run the Schwarzman Scholars scheme and Craig Calhoun ran the Berggruen Institute after LSE. But how much quasi-academic interaction is going on behind closed doors? I’ve seen hints of this at various points in my career, leaving me suspecting there’s a great deal of it which happens which few of us do see. From loc 661:

Since 2002, Fundación Telmex has organized an international symposium in Mexico City. Slim invites some of the people he knows or admires to deliver a keynote speech that only the young interns and specific staff from his companies have access to. The list of speakers is as long as it is diverse, and reveals the kind of convening power Slim possesses, as well as some of his interests and passions. In 2002, for example, the legendary football star Pelé was a guest, while in 2003 guests included Alvin Toffler, ex-president Bill Clinton and basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. In 2004, guests were Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, and from the United States, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. In 2005, actor Goldie Hawn and Argentinian ex-football player Jorge Valdano were guests, while in 2006, a year of troubled presidential elections in Mexico, the symposium did not take place.

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