Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Elton at Robin Hood Gala

The Robin Hood Foundation raised more than $80 million to fight poverty in New York at its star-studded gala Monday night, thanks in part to a matching $25 million donation by a group of anonymous donors.

Addressing an audience of Wall Street honchos that was entertained by Mary J. Blige, Bono, Elton John and Brian Williams, Robin Hood founder and hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II said what united the foundation’s donors was “the need to give love.”

The figure raised Monday night bests last year’s haul of $59 million, which in turn beat the $47 million raised by the event in 2011.

The foundation is also hosting its first investment conference this fall, said Barry Sternlicht, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, with scheduled speakers including David Einhorn, Howard Marks and David Tepper.

The annual springtime extravaganza acts somewhat as a barometer of the hedge-fund industry. In 2008, a trip to Australia to scuba dive and have lunch with Hugh Jackman fetched $420,000. The following year, in the midst of the financial crisis and anger toward Wall Street, prizes on offer during a scaled-back auction focused on opportunities to feed hungry families and enroll children in charter schools.

This year, more than 4,200 people attended the 25th anniversary celebration, chaired by Mr. Jones and his wife, Sonia; KKR & Co. co-founder Henry Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josee; CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and his wife, television personality Julie Chen; and Hollywood stars Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.

Early in the evening, Mr. Timberlake chatted with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Steven A. Cohen wandered through the cocktail reception and Elton John played “Tiny Dancer” as attendees munched on shrimp and whipped ricotta cheese at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“I’m very excited to perform for you after you talked over Elton John as if he were playing covers in a Hyatt f– lounge,” the comedian Louis C.K. said, winning laughs, before spinning into an expletive-strewn routine.

Other surprise guests included Jerry Seinfeld, and Paul Simon and Sting, who played together.

Brian Williams, hosting the event, joked about some Bloomberg reporters’ use of the proprietary Bloomberg terminals to access subscriber data, saying, “We have a Bloomberg terminal–I know what you’re all thinking. That’s been a fun development this year.”

Later, addressing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in the audience, he said, “Mr. Mayor, thanks for being a good sport,” then winked and pointed at Mr. Bloomberg, pulling an imaginary trigger. “And, I’m taking the West Side Highway home in case anything happens to me. Five thousand witnesses.”

“Everyone here has been amazing. You showed your love for this great city. Now it’s time to party,” Timberlake said, introducing the finale for the night as “something powerful”: Bono, Elton John, Sting, all joining Mary J. Blige, who opened with “Family Affair.” Guests rushed the stage, with Schmidt and Kuhn grabbing spots up front.

Since its founding, Robin Hood has given out more than $1.25 billion to fight poverty, according to the foundation, helping to feed New Yorkers, install libraries in public schools and help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Last year, Robin Hood also put on the “12-12-12” benefit concert, featuring musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, to raise money for victims of superstorm Sandy.


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