NAPLES, Fla. (TheStreet) -- Coming out of the Great Recession, a financial heavyweight like Goldman Sachs (GS) might think twice about hosting a lavish event for fat cats and clients. But the folks from Chicago's CME Group (CME) -- the world's largest derivatives exchange -- seemed eager to spend millions on partying.
CME sponsored a three-day event here recently with the likes of Ben Bernanke, Colin Powell, Jay Leno and Michael Milken. Here's what it was like to mingle with the thousand or so participants amid non-stop conferences and cocktails.
Sparing No Expense
Jay Leno and Colin Powell don't come cheap. They hosted the gala dinner on the event's second night and sat chatting amicably for over an hour, telling stories about their lives. Leno also showed a movie that appeared to have been made especially for the event that showed him speeding past the cops. Powell did a spot-on impression of Ronald Reagan, who was the president Powell liked best of the four he served directly.
Other speakers, including Ben Bernanke, Ehud Barak and Nicolas Sarkozy, must have cost a pretty penny as well. CME wouldn't disclose the appearance fees all these celebrities got, but according to various reports, Sarkozy has gotten €250,000, Bernanke $250,000 and Powell is in the $200,000 range.
Then there was the British Invasion-themed after party, with new exterior walls brought in for decoration, an era-appropriate car parked in the patio, fish & chips, and Beatles and Rolling Stones cover bands preceding what turned out to be the REAL Herman's Hermits, led by a 67-year-old Peter Noone, who is in great shape.
How much did this event cost CME? A spokesman for the exchange declined to comment, though he noted guests had to pay to attend, offsetting some of the expense. Banks also chipped in, with UBS (UBS) hosting dinner on the beach and Bank of America (BAC) hosting the night cap on night one.
Swag included a carry-on suitcase that probably retails for $100, filled with more swag, plus iPad minis lent to each attendee for the duration of the event.