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Friday, April 29, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Demand and supply certainly matter. But there's another reason why food across the world has become so expensive: Wall Street greed. It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there's value, there's money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI). For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle, as bankers remained more interested in risk and collateralized debt than in anything that could be literally sowed or reaped. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. All of a sudden, bankers could take as large a position in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had, since the Great Depression, only been available to those who actually had something to do with the production of our food." (ForeignPolicy)


"Vanity Fair threw its annual star-studded Tribeca Film Festival bash on the steps of the State Supreme Court downtown Wednesday night -- but this time, Graydon Carter's party was cocktails-only as it's become too difficult to corral power players into dinner. Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Tommy Mottola, Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein and Quincy Jones all worked the scene to the hilt. Zach Braff told us about his new play, All New People, debuting in June. Christopher Walken wandered behind a column, muttering, 'Nothing, nothing . . .' when we asked him about his next project. But the question on many lips was: Who invited the pony-tailed twins in heels, miniskirts and motorcycle jackets and sucking on cherry Blow Pops? Romanian actresses Gabriela and Mihaela Modorcea were guests of Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation." (PageSix)


"Aaron Sorkin's upcoming HBO pilot, currently titled More As the Story Develops, centers on a pursuit not necessarily thought of as noble but that is approached as such here (cable-news broadcast), a passionate leader (its anchor), and the talented, idealistic staffers around him. In other words, we could have just said 'It's an Aaron Sorkin pilot.' The show is still in its extremely nascent phases, with only Jeff Daniels nailed down as the lead character, anchor Will McCallister. (Marisa Tomei, Alison Pill, and Olivia Munn are also in talks.) Vulture has obtained the script, and even this early in the game, it's easy to suss out MAtSD's Sorkin DNA by flipping through it. The Plot The pilot all takes place within one day — a day of crisis, naturally, when all of a sudden Will's support team has proven disloyal and unworthy and it's time for a new guard to join to help him out! It's a new guard with familiar faces from Will's past; there have been complicated entanglements, but there's also a common goal to do good things. 60 percent Studio 60: A show in post-crisis mode, with returning righteous ex-employees, network bureaucracies, and the honorable desire to bring a sense of ethics and passion to television." (TheVulture)


"For those unaware of Vanity Fair's MO, the magazine made clear what it stood for at its annual Tribeca Film Festival party last night. On the guest list: Hollywood heavies (Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Ron Howard), media moguls (Rupert Murdoch), fashion insiders (Diane von Furstenberg), and even sports stars (John McEnroe). As if to drive the power point home, each front-facing column on the New York State Supreme Courthouse colonnade was adorned with a red block letter, together spelling out Vanity Fair—sort of like the New York version of the Hollywood sign. 'If I don't get a good gift bag tonight, I'm going to steal the 'V' and give it to my mom,' Denis Leary joked. The actor was a juror in the narrative short film category this year, a post that he described as 'more difficult than I expected.' Lauren Hutton, part of the crew judging new documentary films, also had some tough decisions to make. She remained mum on leading prospects, but was proud that the festival, celebrating its tenth year, represented the neighborhood at its best. 'Downtown has definitely always been hipper than uptown,' the model said. 'You only go uptown for the 3 M's: money, museums, and men.'" (Style)


"The ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central was packed last night with gala-goers (over 700 to be exact!) for the 33rd Annual AAFA American Image Awards, benefitting the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Scores of the fash crowd turned out to celebrate the evening's honorees including Mark Weber, CEO of Donna Karan International, who nabbed the Man of the Year award and Ruben and Isabel Toledo, who picked up the Fashion Maverick award from presenter Whoopi Goldberg. Goldberg drew a crowd on the red carpet with throngs of journalists speculating on the popular star's relationship with the design couple. The real story? 'We work together with DIFFA quite a lot. I had a big fundraiser at my house and the Toledos came. I thought they were extraordinary. I couldn't get enough of them!' Goldberg explained, while clutching a mysterious noir coat. 'Oh, my coat! Isabel made me this but it's too hot to wear it. She looked at me tonight and said, Take that off - you're sweating! But I'm holding it. I love my coat' ... The AAFA American Image winners also included Neiman Marcus for Retailer of the Year, William Rast for Brand of the Year, and David Koch, EVP of Koch Industries, for the Humanitarian of the Year." (TheDaily)


"David and Charles Koch, the conservative oil industrialists, are now feuding with the American Society of Magazine Editors. The brothers are apparently still fuming over an article, 'Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are Waging War Against Obama,' by Jane Mayer that ran in The New Yorker last August and is now up for a National Magazine Award in Reporting from ASME. Koch Industries Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mark Holden said in a letter to ASME board members that it is 'inappropriate' for Mayer's piece to be considered for the award because her article is biased. 'Her article is ideologically slanted and a prime example of a disturbing trend in journalism, where agenda-driven advocacy masquerades as objective reporting,' Holden said in a letter sent to ASME CEO Sid Holt and several ASME board members. 'Given these facts, it would be inappropriate for ASME to give Ms. Mayer's article an award in reporting.' Aside from family feuds and dirty laundry, Mayer's article detailed how the brothers -- who control the second-largest privately held company in America, with sales estimated at $100 billion -- were backers of a wide network of conservative think tanks and groups that helped spawn the Tea Party revolution. Mayer told Media Ink that the Koch brothers had turned down repeated attempts to be interviewed." (Keith Kelly)


"This past Tuesday night at Capitale, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), North America’s oldest and the world’s largest organization devoted to archaeology, its Annual Gala. It was an Irish-themed affair with the evening exploring the country’s archaeology, as well as an Irish ale and whiskey tasting, a contemporary Celtic feast created by native Dubliner and James Beard Award-winning Irish chef Cathal Armstrong, and live music and dance performances. There were auctions, of course, both live and silent, featuring archaeologically-themed items including once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences—a chance to dive to an underwater shipwreck, dig at Pompeii, and sail the Emerald Seas around Ireland following the route of 7th-century seagoing monks—along with dazzling jewelry, Celtic treasures, and more ... The evening’s pledge drive also gave guests the opportunity to directly support the preservation of threatened ancient sites in Ireland. The 2011 Bandelier Award for Public Service to Archaeology was presented to George F. Bass, the father of underwater archaeology ... The evening was hosted by Gabriel Byrne, the acclaimed actor and Irish Cultural Ambassador. The focus was on the culture and history of Ireland. Mr. Byrne’s interest in the ancient past stems from his studies in archaeology and linguistics, along with his excavations in Ireland, Italy, and Greece." (NYSocialDiary)


"Fifteen years ago, a single mother named Libia Gomez converted part of her modest cinder-block house into a shop selling sundries ranging from pencils to toothpaste. The location was hardly ideal. Gomez lived in Santo Domingo Savio, a onetime squatter community on a steep, forested slope overlooking the Colombian city of Medellín that had evolved into a permanent slum. Santo Domingo had grown so violent that even the police would not dare to enter. Gomez could see Medellín's city center, a mere two miles to the south, from Santo Domingo, but getting there safely was nearly impossible because traveling down the hill into town would have required crossing multiple zones controlled by rival armed groups. The rest of the city was not much better: Several years after Pablo Escobar, kingpin of the Medellín cocaine cartel, had been gunned down by police while fleeing across the rooftops of the middle-class barrio Los Olivos, Medellín remained the world's most violent city. Today, Gomez is able to look down on the once impassable route from aboard the Metrocable, a ski-resort-style gondola system that carries residents of Santo Domingo high over the cityscape of red-brick buildings to the metro linking them to the rest of Medellín. Her shop sits in the shadow of the Parque Biblioteca España, an ultramodern library complex that presides over the city like the Spanish citadels of 500 years ago. The surrounding community has become one of the city's most popular tourist draws. 'In the old days, my son would be afraid to walk to school. Now he walks freely,' Gomez told us." (Francis Fukuyama and Seth Colby)


"PRIVATE-EQUITY executives have spent the past few years half-apologising for their exuberance during the buy-out boom. 'I analogise it to sex,' said David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a large private-equity firm, describing his industry’s attraction to huge, leveraged deals at a conference in 2009. 'You realise there were certain things you shouldn’t do, but the urge is there, and you can’t resist.' On the face of it, Carlyle has started fooling around again. It completed the most deals and spent the most money of any private-equity firm in 2010 (see table). In January it bought AlpInvest, a private-equity fund of funds that manages €32.3 billion ($43.3 billion) on behalf of two Dutch pension schemes. The deal will close in the next several weeks, making Carlyle one of the world’s two largest private-equity firms, with $150 billion under management—neck-and-neck with the Blackstone Group, and more than twice as big as Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts (KKR). Size certainly matters for Carlyle, since the firm is expected to go public soon. The more assets and sources of cashflow it has, the more attractive it will be to potential shareholders. But this is not a return to the promiscuity of the boom. Carlyle likes to do things differently. It eschewed the obvious buy-out hubs of New York and London and has its headquarters in Washington, DC, a few blocks from the White House. And whereas most big firms concentrated on billion-dollar 'mega-funds' before the crisis and have only recently begun raising smaller, more focused funds, Carlyle has been doing things that way for years. It has 84 active funds, many of which have narrow mandates, like investing in Mexico or energy companies. KKR, in contrast, has around 12 active funds." (TheEconomist)

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