More then a bit salty

SkyBridge Capital (PRNewsFoto/SkyBridge Capital)

Last week’s ninth annual SALT Conference in Las Vegas was quite a show. Once again the folks at Skybridge showed the world how to put together a star-filled program of substance and entertainment. SALT is unique, as it gathers managers, investors, politicians, service providers and entertainers from across the globe to discuss relevant issues and how the market is reacting and will react in the days, weeks and months ahead.

This year’s lineup included speakers from the across the investment management spectrum, politics and entertainment. The program was engaging, well thought-out and delivered flawlessly. And while more then 1500 people participated in the conference, nearly as many took part in the non-conference programs – the unsalted events as they are called: pool parties, dinner parties, golf outings and standard Vegas style debauchery. It is really quite something and, as I wrote last week, I believe SALT is a yearly Woodstock of capitalism. It is a great place to network and engage the best and brightest minds of the global investment management word.

There were a number of highlights and most of them were covered in the traditional media. One thing that I found amusing — and I am not talking about Dana Carvey (who killed it, by the way), but rather a weird interaction a colleague and I had with game show and talk show host Steve Harvey.  Mr Harvey, it seems, is so afraid of potentially interacting with the public that he travels amidst a phalanx of people. It is unclear whether this entourage was security, friends or just hangers-on, but it was quite amusing to watch.  In contrast to Mr. Harvey’s posse, former British Prime Minister David Cameron traveled the halls of the hotel with just one copper, and former governor and Presidential candidate Jeb Bush also seemed to have just one person with him, somebody who helped a number of attendees to have a photo taken with his boss.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is really funny: It showed me how greatly we value our TV personalities in this country. Or at least how greatly they value themselves.

The conference was once again a showcase for investment, entertainment and political speakers, and it garnered quite a bit of coverage. One thing that I have not seen written about is Jim Chanos’ comments about fees. Sure, he complained that hedge fund fees are too high — shocker — but he also said mutual fund fees are too high, as well. Not much ink on this tidbit — oh, right, the big mutual fund companies buy lots of print, online and television ads. I guess the mainstream press doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

Anyway, a good conference and one that surely is worth attending in the future.

Things that drive me crazy

Oh, where to begin. After a week in Vegas there is quite a bit to write about, but the one thing that really sticks out is the failure of the domestic airline industry, FAA and airport authorities to get planes to run on time. It seems that everyone I spoke with mentioned that they had a problem with their flight, not dragged off or anything as drastic as that, but delay after delay after delay. This is nuts. The powers-that-be need to get together and fix the system. There is no reason for this to happen over and over again.