Dignitaries, CEOs set to visit Aspen this week | AspenTimes.com

Dignitaries, CEOs set to visit Aspen this week

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A king, a foreign minister, a former U.S. president and a former U.S. secretary of state are expected to join a bevy of corporate CEOs and a throng of luminaries from politics, government and the arts this week in Aspen.

An elite Fortune magazine conference and the annual board of directors meeting at the Aspen Institute are both being held this week. And both are attracting people from the “A-list” in government, business, technology and the arts.

King Abdullah II of Jordan is expected to speak at the Fortune conference, “Brainstorm 2002,” which runs today through Wednesday.

According to a July 26 report in the Jordan Times, King Abdullah is scheduled “to deliver a speech at a meeting organized by the U.S.-based Fortune magazine in the city of Aspen in Colorado. The audience will include a number of prominent American politicians and opinion leaders.”

The king was also scheduled to give a lecture at the Aspen Institute on Wednesday, but that has been canceled, perhaps because the king is now scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on Wednesday.

Meeting last week in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac, King Abdullah called for an international meeting on Middle East peace, saying “All those who want peace must mobilize.”

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Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is expected to be in Aspen Wednesday to speak at the Fortune event, which is private, by-invitation-only and quite secure.

Last week, Peres called Israel’s F-16 bombing of a Gaza City building that killed 15 people, including nine children, a “mistake.” Peres is scheduled to meet with Chirac today in France as part of renewed efforts by the French to broker peace in the Middle East.

According to Sunday’s edition of the Jerusalem Post, Peres is next traveling to the United States, “where he will first attend a conference in Aspen, Colorado, being attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. However, Peres has not yet made any plans to hold talks with him at the event …”

Peres is expected to then travel to Washington to meet with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Former President Bill Clinton is also expected to attend the Brainstorm 2002 conference. Last August, when the first Fortune brainstorm meeting was held here, Clinton spoke of the possibility of “more and more terrorism,” which came to pass a mere six weeks later in September.

Clinton was also in Aspen last week to attend a corporate meeting held by InfoUSA.

Also expected to return for this year’s Fortune meeting is former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who is also on the board of trustees at the Aspen Institute.

Albright serves on the Institute’s board with a host of influential people who either will be attending this year’s Fortune meeting or attended last year, including Gerald Levin, the former CEO of AOL Time Warner; Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador who now works for Boeing; and Lester Crown, a Chicago industrialist with a controlling stake in General Dynamics and the Aspen Skiing Co.

Also on the Institute’s board are Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States; former presidential advisor David Gergen; Ann Richards, former governor of Texas; and Jack Valenti, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association.

This week’s gathering of the wealthy and the influential is not unusual during the summer in Aspen, it is just more pronounced.

“A lot of the people we were inviting anyway either have homes or have friends there,” said David Kirkpatrick, a senior editor with Fortune magazine, which covers corporate America and publishes the annual Fortune 500 list.

Aspen Police Department Detective Jim Crowley would not confirm whether his agency has been asked to assist with security this week for King Abdullah, Peres or Clinton, but he said it is common for the department to help with security for such high-caliber people.

“Generally, those folks would bring in their own security with them,” Crowley said. “And we would act in support of whatever security they are bringing with them. But you’re not going to be looking at the same type of security that we had when President Clinton was here as a sitting president. It’s not going to be on that scale.”

Fortune’s Kirkpatrick said the goal of the three-day Brainstorm 2002 conference is to try to understand the world’s future by talking “with the smartest people we know.”

Last year’s event included Bill Joy of Sun and Java, Cosmopolitan magazine founder Helen Gurley Brown, Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah, actor Edward James Olmos, Yale Medical School Dean David Kessler and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth.

“We have a better group than last year,” said Kirkpatrick, who organizes the event. “We are basically trying to gather the most polyglot, varied, heterogeneous group we can possibly assemble in order to discuss the way the world is changing.”

The meeting is closed to outside media and the public, but is open to the 18 writers and editors from Fortune who will be picking the brains of the 150 attendees.

A crew from CNN, which, like Fortune, is also an AOL Time Warner property, will be beaming interviews with the conference-goers back to CNN shows such as “Money Line” and to CNNfn’s financial news desk.

A series of stories on the conference are planned for a fall issue of Fortune, which last year had to graft a post-Sept. 11 rethinking of its conference onto its coverage, which can be found online at fortune.com/newfuture.

But terrorism was discussed by the forward-looking participants of last year’s event. Clinton told the gathering that “there [is] the possibility that we will have more and more terrorism married to organized crime using high technology.”

“Most people left with a concern of terrorism,” said Kirkpatrick. “And that was in early August. In retrospect, we were on the right track.”

Less on track was the Nov. 26, 2001, cover that Fortune planned for the issue reviewing the Aspen conference. Twelve conference attendees, including Enron CEO Ken Lay, were posed for a group shot. But as Enron’s fortunes crumbled between August and November, Lay’s image was digitally taken out of the shot, according to The Washington Post.

“We didn’t feel like he fit the criteria anymore for being one of the smartest people we know,” a Fortune spokesperson told the Post.

Fortune, for six years running, from 1996 to 2001, gave Enron an award as “America’s most innovative company.”

But, to the magazine’s credit, it was Fortune writer Bethany McLeans who is credited for asking some of the earliest and toughest questions in an article critical of Enron.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]

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