Paul McCartney, Carrie Underwood Star At Billionaire Ron Baron's Investment Conference
Billionaire Ron Baron isn’t just a savvy investor – he also knows how to put on a good show.
On Friday, over 4000 investors from across the country and abroad convened at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The highly-anticipated annual conference, in its 23rd year, is famous not just for big-name CEO speakers but also superstar performers who remain a surprise until the moment they take stage.
The conference morning sessions started out with presentations by a roster of CEOs who head up companies in Baron Funds’ portfolio. Speakers included T. Andrew Smith from Brookdale Senior Living, Yos Shiran from CaesarStone, James Cashman from Ansys ANSS, Selim Bassoul from Middleby, and finally, Edward Woodward from Manchester United.
“We are the No.1 team in 47 states here,” Woodward told investors. “We want to be relevant in the United States.”
Investors squeezed in a joyful one-hour lunch break before the afternoon panels. Lunch-time performances included six-time Grammy Awards winner Carrie Underwood, Janelle Monáe, Vanessa Williams, and cast of the musical Show Boat. After the short break, fund managers from 13 Baron Funds took stage to discuss the market outlook and their investment strategy, and Linda Martinson, president and COO of Baron Funds gave a presentation on this year’s theme “Built To Last.”
“Three of the four people who have the longest tenure at Baron are women. The only one who’s not is Ron,” Martinson said. She noted that at Baron, 48% of the employees are women and 61% of leadership roles are taken by women.
Of course, the highlight of the day came when Baron (worth $2.1 billion these days) himself gave a speech. “In bad times, people were too afraid to invest; and now when things are getting better, people are still afraid to invest,” he said. He delved into the examples of companies that have failed to adapt, such as Eastern Kodak and AT&T. His funds focus on making long-term investments in businesses that are built to last, Baron said. “Stocks double every 10 years; we hope to do that every 5 years.”
Legendary singer and songwriter Paul McCartney performed at billionaire Ron Baron's 2014 investment conference in New York City. (Credit: Liyan Chen with Forbes)
But just like in past years, no keynote speakers garnered as much attention as the surprise music acts. This year, it was someone truly special to Baron himself, who admitted that he played the artist’s music at his own wedding. Legendary singer and songwriter Paul McCartney instantly fired up the audience in the opera house when he appeared. “I love you Paul!” One investor jumped up from her seat and screamed the moment McCartney appeared.
McCartney joins the rank of high-profile artists who have performed at the Baron Investment Conference. Last year Barbra Streisand headlined. Others who have performed include Harry Connick Jr., Celine Dion, Sting, James Taylor, Diana Ross, John Cougar Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Elton John.
When McCartney played the song “Hey Jude”, one of his last songs of the day, nearly all of the 4000-member audience stood up and sang out loud (with McCartney conducting). One attendee said quietly after the show:”That was something quite special, wasn’t it?”
Indeed, even Baron himself thinks so. He told the attendees that it was seeing McCartney live in Madison Square Garden that convinced him to move to New York many years ago.
This year's surprise guest at billionaire Ron Baron's conference: Paul McCartney