Milken Conference Postponed to July as Virus Spreads Worsens

(Bloomberg) -- The Milken Institute Global Conference is being postponed to July 7-10 as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

“Even though attendee registration and commitments from major speakers were outpacing previous years, we felt it was important to make this decision now to help our key constituents plan accordingly,” Milken Institute CEO Michael Klowden said in a statement Saturday.

For more than two decades, the annual event run by billionaire financier Michael Milken’s think tank has gathered some of the world’s most influential people to swap notes on such topics as finance, immigration, health care and politics. It was originally scheduled for May 2-6 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

The July event will be held in Los Angeles and the specific venue will be announced in coming weeks, according to the statement. Bloomberg first reported the postponement Friday.

The epidemic is prompting financial institutions to cancel or reschedule events, restrict travel, quarantine staff and test contingency plans. Covid-19 has caused more than 3,400 deaths since it was first reported in Wuhan, China. The number of cases in the U.S. rose to 330 as of late Friday, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Oaktree Capital Management, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Glenview Capital Management are among financial companies that have recently canceled gatherings or switched them to a virtual format.

The conference is nicknamed “the Davos of the West” in a nod to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland where celebrities, business tycoons and policy makers flock. Past speakers include European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Apollo Global Management Inc. co-founder Leon Black and actor Tom Hanks. Last year, more than 4,000 attendees paid as much as $50,000 for tickets.

The event is known as much for its hobnobbing and dealmaking as for panel discussions. Attendees conduct separate meetings and throw parties at nearby mansions and hotels. In 2017, a cheetah named Bahati made an appearance at a bash hosted by EJF Philanthropies. In 2018, actor Jim Belushi held a mixer for investors and marijuana advocates at his $38.5 million estate.

The conference also often features holistic healing events, morning yoga, meditation and aromatherapy. Last year’s version included a discussion on healthy eating with U2 guitarist The Edge, a panel on micro-dosing LSD and an opportunity to play with puppies.

Michael Milken, the 1980s junk-bond pioneer who pleaded guilty to securities fraud and now is a philanthropist and public health advocate, started the conference in 1998.

Milken, 73, spent 22 months in prison in the early 1990s for securities and tax violations. President Donald Trump pardoned Milken in February, a move that doesn’t reverse his lifetime ban on securities dealing.

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