From junk bond king to fund-raising prince: Michael Milken still knows how to raise capital

Milken Conference

Spring in Los Angeles is punctuated by three high-profile events: the Academy Awards Ceremony, the LA Marathon, and the Milken Global Conference.

Of the three, the Milken Global Conference is the least well known due, in part, to the fact that it’s only been around for thirteen years. But that perception is beginning to change as it continues to attract high-profile participants culled from government, business, and the media. The conference is always held in Beverly Hills at the end of April (April 26 – 28).

Headliners scheduled for this year’s conference include California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver, financial journalist Arianna Huffington, media mogul Sumner Redstone, breast cancer activist Susan Love, tennis great Andre Agassi, and Harvard economist Nouriel Roubini along with a slew of CEOs from major corporations and investment firms. The Milken Global Conference is considered by many to the be western equivalent of the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.

Because of its high-profile nature, this event attracts those interested in networking and advancing their careers so naturally the price of doing some power glad-handing doesn’t come cheaply. This year’s admission ticket is $4295, up $300 from last year. The 3000 available slots at this price have already been filled (as of this writing) but if you want to pony up the $6000 annual membership fee to the Milken Institute, you can still get a seat.

The other way to go is to become an event sponsor, and this year there around 70 of them. Many of the sponsors have current dealings with the Milken Foundation or are spearheaded by former Milken colleagues, employees, or cronies. Each panel breakout session requires a sponsor. According to a conference insider, the sponsorship cost per breakout session comes with a minimum $50k price tag (I’m betting that the high-profile keynote events cost considerably more), and there are roughly 160 scheduled sessions as counted from the program.

This yearly conference is the major fundraiser which supports the activities at the Milken Institute. These activities include analyzing global capital markets, identifying regional economic dynamics, applying financial innovations to social, political, and economic challenges, investigating health trends, and accelerating the introduction of new disease treatment therapies.

One would expect that maintaining these loftly pursuits would require a fairly sizable chunk of change. To that end, let’s see how much Milken is able to raise via his Global Conference:

Admissions: $12,885,000 (3000 x $4295)
Sponsorships: > $8,000,000 (160 x $50,000)

Total: > $20,885,000

Raising a minimum of $20M via a single event is nothing short of phenomenal. But hey, when you’re dealing with the guy who helped revolutionize the capital markets, conquered prostate cancer, and whom many folks consider to be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree (Hanukkah bush?), one wouldn’t expect anything less.

[Photo source: Milken Institute on Facebook]

One Response to “From junk bond king to fund-raising prince: Michael Milken still knows how to raise capital”

  1. Thank you for noting that the Global Conference is one of the highlights of the year, with our ability to attract top-level speakers and media. The 2010 Global Conference is no exception.

    Unfortunately, there are a number of assumptions and figures in your piece that are grossly inaccurate.

    1. None of the 130+ sessions are sponsored. To state that “each breakout session requires a sponsor” is 100% inaccurate. The Institute creates and drives all of the sessions. Some sponsors have private, invitation-only sessions, but those are clearly noted on the program. And in some cases we work with sponsors who help us with panels that are clearly appropriate for this event.
    2. You are correct that the Global Conference is the Institute’s main fundraising source. It provides much of the funding of our research throughout the year. But your estimated costs of how much we raise by this event are so ridiculously high as to be laughable (we wish your figures were true). To put it politely, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Again, we appreciate your noting the Global Conference’s growing importance, but this posting is not an accurate representation of the conference, its operations or its financing.

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