For the last three years, I have attended the SALT conference in Las Vegas. The brain child of Anthony Scaramucci, it is the top conference in the world for hedge funds and money managers. NFTE executives and Board members are invited to SALT, free of charge, because Anthony and Victor are two of NFTE's largest supporters. This year, our CEO Amy Rosen, my right-hand person Deidre Lee and I attended.
SALT, born in 2008 when our government leaders said that money managers should not be going to Las Vegas while getting government bailouts from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Anthony and his partner Victor Oviedo decided to go forward with their conference while all the other major conferences were cancelled. That risk paid off. It is now the premier financial conference in the world and is close to the World Economic Forum in Davos as the top conference overall.
Over the last three years, the quality of the conference has exceeded the previous year. In 2011, among the top speakers we heard were Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Former President George W. Bush. I learned so much from their interviews as they spoke to the leaders of the business community, appearing very relaxed and open.
In 2012, things got even better. Mike Milken, Chairman of the Milken Institute, was brilliant, being the first speaker I ever heard question the wisdom of investing in real estate, including one's family home. Prime Minister Blair was outstanding and I was so proud that Anthony interviewed him and then Al Gore. Some of my other favorite speakers in 2012 were the investors Paul Singer and Leon Cooperman, whose sage advice was clear and wise, helping me make adjustments to my own portfolio. One of the best nights was the evening we all spent dancing to Maroon Five, making me a hero to my nephews and nieces. It was wonderful to learn that a third of the proceeds for the evening went to support our programs at NFTE.
This year was the best. I could barely sleep the night of May 7th knowing the next three days would be so informative and fun. The first day, Mike Kryzewski, Head Men's Basketball Coach at Duke University and Coach of the USA Olympic Men's Basketball Team, enthralled the 1,500-member audience with his stories and lessons about building teams. A panel of Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Secretary of Labor Leon Panetta, was fascinating, but the best was yet to come.
I had always wanted to see my favorite actor in person. Walking briskly to the front of the room, I hustled my way to a seat near the dais. My heart beating, I awaited Al Pacino whose career of 50 films includes some of the greatest achievements ever in art. Suddenly, he came out and he and Scott Wapner had a magical rapport. He looked like he was 40, but I knew he was 72. Handsome and perfectly dressed, he looked like he was barely 5' 5".
Pacino talked about getting his first break as an actor in Godfather: Part I in 1971 when Francis Ford Coppola insisted on hiring him over the film's producer Robert Evans. At first the dailies (the footage shot every day) were poor and it looked like Pacino was going to be fired, but then, the famous restaurant scene was shot and everyone loved it. He stayed in the film and it became one of the most successful films of all time.
Pacino told a beautiful story of how the director of Dog Day Afternoon came over to him and said during a break, "Why not yell out ATTICA." Sure enough, Pacino did and the extras and others watching the filming started chatting "Attica, Attica." It was an extemporaneous moment that went down in film history.
That led to Pacino talking about his next film -- Imagine -- where he plays an aging rock star. It may have been his most challenging role and he talked about the power of the subconscious in creating art. You could hear a pin drop as he talked about his creative process. Suddenly, he was on his feet doing a dance and spoke of how his father was a dancer and it had suddenly come to him to illustrate the creative process. The audience loved it and I sensed we were all subconsciously connected through the leadership of this great artist.
We also heard two of the great investors of our time, John Paulson and Dan Loeb. I've heard a lot of money managers speak, but no one like these two. Dan is very interested in education and so Amy Rosen and I had the opportunity to meet with him privately for almost 45 minutes. Later in the conference, my favorite scientist, Michio Kaku, spoke. Kaku, an American theoretical physicist and the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York, was brilliant in describing the coming technology breakthroughs and their effects on our life. My two favorites were the eye pieces that contain massive information that will be available to our brains just by putting them on. As an example, everyone we have ever met is in the goggles and when we see them, their names will immediately come up. Another big breakthrough that according to Machio will be available soon, is cars that drive automatically. The early experiments have indicated they are safer and could, in my lifetime, eliminate traffic fatalities.
Perhaps, the highlight of the speakers for week was legendary film director Oliver Stone. The director of many genius movies, he was elegant and smart. His major theme was that getting to historical truth is important so that the younger generations can learn from our mistakes.
What really got our attention was the Twitter competition that was announced by PVBLIC Foundation. Folks were to 'tweet' and 're-tweet' for their favorite non-profit, and whoever received the most 'tweets' would win $1M in free publicity. For three days, we emailed, called and 'tweeted' to all of our supporters asking them to support us. It was so exciting when it was announced that the competition had gone so well that the top three non-profits -- NFTE, the San Francisco Ballet and Wounded Warriors -- had each won $1M in free media! I was so happy that I stood and cheered. What a great ending to a fantastic conference!
For fun, Deidre and I went to visit the Mob Museum located in 'old' Las Vegas. And that is my next story...