As the Clintons Step Back From Global Stage, Bloomberg Steps Up
A generational baton-passing this is not. Mr. Clinton is 71. Mr. Bloomberg is 75. But the event will still represent a marked shift. The festivities around the Clinton Global Initiative, which ran from 2005 through 2016, were fueled by the star power of one past president and a potential future one. The Clintons raised millions to underwrite the event, sometimes stirring accusations of pay-to-play along the way. Mr. Bloomberg is paying for the forum himself through his philanthropy.
There will still be some star power — the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James has recorded a video introducing the event — but it is expected to have a different feel. The 2017 version is slimmed down from a three-day affair to a day of speakers, panelists and meetings.
Under the Clintons, billions of dollars were pledged year after year by attendees for charitable commitments worldwide, from AIDS relief to global poverty. That is not a part of the initial Bloomberg forum.
The speaker and panelist list is impressive and wide-ranging: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs; Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft; Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group; and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
“Bill Clinton and his team figured out something fundamental,” Mr. Sheekey said. That the United Nations annual meeting — a week when the leaders of 193 countries all descend on Manhattan — is “the time and place in which more powerful people get together than any place in the world.”
The Bloomberg-sponsored 2017 forum comes during the first year of President Trump’s tenure, as he has promised a pullback under the banner of “America First” from engagement abroad and international trade deals.
Mr. Bloomberg has been an outspoken critic of the president, and parts of the day’s agenda can be read as a counterweight to the White House. One panel is on “the prospects for expanding trade,” and will feature Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trump has threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the United States and Canada.
Even though Mr. Trump’s presidency is expected to be a dominant topic at the Bloomberg forum, only one administration official is participating in a panel: Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce.
Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Clinton have undertaken shared philanthropic endeavors in the past. Mr. Bloomberg pledged $24 million at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative gathering for women’s empowerment, and made more charitable promises the next year.
“There is a close working relationship that he and the former president have had,” Mr. Sheekey said of Mr. Bloomberg, “and he is very respectful of what the former president was able to do.”
Mr. Sheekey first reached out to Doug Band, a Clinton adviser who helped start the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005, about a year ago to discuss the possibility of hosting the event after the Clintons announced 2016 would be their last.
Angel Urena, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton, said the former president’s “hope when he started the Clinton Global Initiative is that it would show by example that partnership and innovation can make a measurable difference — and he is glad to see those ideas being carried forward.”
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