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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Ackman’

Lunch: Happy Birthday Donna Hanover & Paula Zahn

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If it’s Wednesday, it’s party time at Michael’s. We’re still recovering from the head spinning spectacle of last week’s A-list lunch for James Cameron. This week, the celebration was a tad more low-key at Table One as public relations maven Joannie Danielides hosted her annual birthday luncheon for her good pal and long time client, Donna Hanover, whose actual birthday was February 15. Joannie, who is busier than ever these days with a full roster of clients in health care and education, told me it was actually a double celebration since it was guest Paula Zahn‘s birthday as well.

I caught up with Paula before she joined the party to chat about her new show, On the Case with Paula Zahn, on Discovery ID. “We’ve just been renewed for a second season,” said Paula, who looked better than ever in a chic leopard print top and some killer stiletto boots. “It’s been great. I’m getting to do some amazing stories. Right after this, I’m getting on a plane and heading to an Alabama prison.” Some people have all the fun.

I had lunch with two of my favorite people today: producer Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, partner of the Long Island based marketing firm, Zimmerman/Edelson. Joan arrived first and told me about her recent trip to Vietnam with her husband, Don Aronson. Both Joan and Don were anti-war activists back in the day and are still true believers. On this trip, the couple spent some time visiting orphanages and were “shocked and appalled” to see the awful effects that Agent Orange has wrought on the country. “It was horrifying to see the stark reality of what war can do to a people — and what we did to these people,” Joan told me.

Things lightened up a bit when Robert arrived. Between the two of them, they know just about everyone in New York and, trust me, the conversation is never dull. (Most of the juiciest stuff is, of course, off the record.) Since Joan is a die-hard Democrat and Robert is an in-demand political commentator for all the cable channels, we had plenty to talk about. When Evan Bayh‘s surprise resignation from Congress came up, Robert offered this assessment: “Saying he’s fallen out of love with Congress is something a 14 year-old adolescent would say. There’s a lot more to it than being in love; it’s about getting the job done.” Robert had these words of advice for jump-starting the stalled government: “The challenge for the Democrats is to come out of group therapy and get things started again. The ball is in our court. Success depends on us acting on our message.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Birthday girls Donna Hanover and Paula Zahn, Joannie Danielides, Gayle King, Time Inc’s Ann Moore, Linda Stacey, Karen Scott, Sue Leibman and Matilda Cuomo. A little birdie told me the girls dug into two birthday cakes: one carrot cake and one chocolate. It seems like the group couldn’t get enough sweet treats. We spied doggie bags stuffed with cookies being packed into a few purses.

2. Most of ‘The Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Jeff Greenfield

3. Gerry Byrne, who just launched Fidelis Global Enterprises LLC. New clients of his advertising media consultancy agency include Adgenesis and Beezag. I caught up with Jerry until his guest, Jane Hanson, arrived. I told Jane I loved the stuff she’s been doing on LX New York, showing the fledgling talking heads how it’s done.

4. A bespectacled Mike Ovitz and a fellow we didn’t recognize

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Columbia Panel Examines Business Press Post-Crisis: “They Followed Conventional Wisdom”

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Last night’s panel (from left to right): Ackman, Starkman, Madrick and Morgenson

Last night, we headed up town to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for a panel discussing the future of business journalism.

The panel, which was called “Now What? Business Journalism After the Meltdown,” featured New York Times assistant business and financial editor Gretchen Morgenson, investor Bill Ackman, Jeff Madrick, editor of Challenge Magazine, and Dean Starkman, managing editor of The Audit, The Columbia Journalism Review‘s online critique of financial journalism. Starkman also wrote the CJR cover story critiquing the business press before and after the credit crisis and housing meltdown.

Moderator Bill Grueskin, the dean of academic affairs at Columbia J-School, opened the discussion by asking the panel how they thought the business press had fared in its coverage of the recent economic crisis and what lessons they had learned.

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Portfolio Mag’s Madoff Breakfast

Kudos to Portfolio magazine for this morning’s thought-provoking panel about Bernie Madoff. Panelists: Elie Wiesel (pr. Eely Vee-zel), a prominent author and founder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which lost money to Madoff; Harvey Pitt, ceo of Kalorama Partners and former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); and Jim Chanos, President and founder of Kynikos Associates, a well-known short-seller. Portfolio Editor in Chief Joanne Lipman moderated. The conversation ranged from heart-felt to thought-provoking to vengeful. I Twittered it at http://www.twitter.com/laureltouby

Some of the questions raised: What is Affinity fraud? Why was there such a lack of accountability on the part of the SEC? Did Madoff have accomplices? Will the high-stakes banker-types at Lehman and Merrill be accused of criminal behavior? How can we trust that it was a $50b fraud when that number was what Madoff himself reported?

The best answer was given when someone in the audience asked Wiesel (who lost tens of millions of dollars to Madoff): “Could you ever forgive him?”

Wiesel repeats the question: “Forgive?” as if to consider it. Then, after a looooong pause, retorts “No!….He’d have to ask for forgiveness and he wouldn’t do that.”

A bit later, I’ll post some video. In the meantime, hit the “continued” link to find out more about what was said (and what went noticeably unsaid) about the Madoff Fraud…

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