America’s business elite mix it up in Aspen |

America’s business elite mix it up in Aspen

Brent Gardner-SmithAspen Times Staff Writer

Ask a hotel operator in town and they’ll probably tell you that corporate group business in Aspen has fallen off. But a search of a media database shows that Aspen is at least still on the radar screen of some executives.The July 8 edition of Fortune magazine includes a business calendar put together by Alynda Wheat that mentions one of Fortune’s own confabs scheduled here for July 29.She described the meeting as “smart people focus on the developing world at Fortune’s Brainstorm 2002 – in Aspen, of all places. King Abdullah of Jordan and actress Elisabeth Shue solve global warming over s’mores.”Yes, but s’mores are a campfire thing, and that ain’t happening this year.Last year’s Fortune meeting here included Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, John Doerr, Michael Eisner, Bill Joy and Gerald Levin.It’s a by-invitation-only affair, so watch your mailbox.@ATD Sub heds:Is Aspen anathema?@ATD body copy:Of course, being an executive and coming to Aspen can be risky business these days.The Institute for Public Affairs’ most recent edition of its publication, In These Times, reports on Minnesota’s Allina Health System, an HMO that was investigated by the state’s attorney general.The report “depicts a self-centered, party-hardy culture within Allina that is quite different from the image cultivated by the HMO industry,” the publication reports.Among its sins was paying for “trips for Allina executives to Aspen and Vail, more than 30 trips to Hawaii, and more than 1,000 trips to California and Florida from 1998 to 2000 …”Yes, but one person’s corporate excess is another person’s after-dinner tip.@ATD Sub heds:Nukes in Aspen@ATD body copy:A guest commentary by John McCaughey in the July 1 issue of The Electricity Daily (what, you don’t subscribe?) shed some harsh light on another gathering of executives in Aspen.In the piece, McCaughey was making the point that the nuclear energy industry was run by people who are overly entitled.”To me, the hubris was best exemplified by a story that Irwin Stelzer (then, as now, one of America’s pre-eminent energy economists) once told me,” McCaughey writes.”Stelzer was entertaining a bunch of utility CEOs to dinner at his chalet in Aspen, Colo.”One of the CEOs was a notorious red-faced bully, Sherwood Smith, long gone now but at the time the powerful CEO of Carolina Power & Light.”Sitting on the terrace in the lovely Rocky Mountain twilight over a glass of Chateau Petrus, Stelzer expressed a mild opinion that nuclear power in the U.S. was not a terribly good idea.”No loony enviro, Stelzer went on to explain in detail that nuclear just wasn’t economic as a power source. It simply cost too much to build and to operate the plants.”Smith took great umbrage, Stelzer told me, and denounced the gentle economist. Groping around in his mental grab-bag, Smith finally came up with a spluttering rebuttal.”Stelzer, he said, and people like him who had a bad word to say about nuclear, were ‘unpatriotic.'”I am not making this up.”Nor are we.[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is]

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