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SEP 5, 2006

The Forbes Global CEO Conference No. 1: The World’s Largest Gathering of Capitalists

By Yoshito Hori
Copyright GLOBIS

“Ten billionaires are coming to this year’s Forbes Global CEO Conference, as well as twenty other entrepreneurs with assets between 10 billion and 100 billion yen. The combined personal assets of these participants alone exceed 8 trillion yen!”

I was talking to Professor Haruo Shimada of Keio University when all of a sudden the editor-in-chief of Forbes Asia magazine interrupted to gush this explanation, his large body swaying. I asked him why so many notable entrepreneurs were coming.

“Steve Forbes personally visited each of them and asked them to come! Someone in Japan has been turning out entrepreneurs and has even appeared on the cover of Forbes. I invited him to this conference because I wanted to meet him.”

He smiled warmly.

I had received the conference invitation in mid-July and was surprised at the offer. CEO conferences typically cost thousands of dollars, but I was being specially invited to attend for free. I knew I had to do whatever it would take to go and immediately cleared my schedule for early September so I could travel to Singapore.

It then occurred to me that if I was going to participate, I wanted to be a speaker. I negotiated with the organizers and had my name added to the list of panelists. At about the same time, I had also been invited by the Red Herring to speak at their Red Herring Asia 2006 conference, to be held in Hong Kong. This made it cost-effective time-wise to schedule both events on the same trip, so I set up a speaking tour of Singapore and Hong Kong to run from late August to early September.

I always try to attend overseas conferences as a speaker. Needless to say, it is far more interesting that way, and it also attracts more publicity for GLOBIS. Of course, you don’t get invited to speak unless you have something worthwhile to say. That’s why I constantly work on enhancing my English and keeping my mind sharp.

Business Week magazine will hold its CEO Conference at the end of October in Beijing, and at the beginning of November, the Venture Capital Conference will be held in Hong Kong. At the end of November, New Delhi will be the venue for a conference organized by the World Economic Forum, which operates the Davos Conference. The Mumbai Venture Capital Forum will be held at the beginning of December. I am scheduled to speak at all these conferences.

This meant I would be on a series of business trips around Asia: Hong Kong and Singapore in September, Beijing and Hong Kong again at the end of October, and Mumbai (Bombay) at the end of November. This year, my face appeared on the cover of Forbes Asia, and that’s why I received so many invitations to speak. To take advantage of these opportunities for boosting the presence of GLOBIS in Asia, I scheduled these overseas business trips together.

The bus arrived at Sentosa Island, the site of the reception. It used to be that you could only get there by cable car, but a bridge was built to provide more convenient access. About 80 people were at the reception. I was joined at my table by Steve Forbes and Minoru Mori, the President of Mori Building, with his wife.

The reception was sponsored by the major French financial institution Société Générale, so the wine was utterly magnificent. A short time later, a wine consultant from France described the selections in impeccable English, with microphone in hand:

“After careful consideration, I decided on a Bordeaux for both red wine selections. It is a little young, but represents a very good vintage, so I picked Mouton Rothschild 1996. We decanted it three hours ago, and after allowing it to breathe, we returned it to the bottle.”

What thorough preparations! There must have been more than 20 bottles.

“The other wine is a Chateau Petrus 1994.”

They say this wine costs more than 100,000 yen a bottle. It was so delicious, I couldn’t stop myself from refilling my glass. Consequently, I was in a very good mood by the end of first day’s reception.

The next morning, after attending a breakfast meeting, I headed toward the conference venue. The Shangri-La conference room was filled with 500 CEOs, all wearing smart suits. There were a few female CEOs, maybe about 5% or so, wearing dresses or suits, adorned here and there with red, green, and white.

Following the opening remarks from Steve Forbes, the conference began. I was the second speaker on the program. The topic of the first panel was growth and risk. Professor Shimada Haruo from Japan was part of that panel. He is a fluent and dynamic English speaker and definitely had the ability to really fire up the audience.

My turn to speak was getting closer and closer. The theme was investment. This was an venue for presenting the areas and commodities of Asia that were worth investing in. With so many billionaires in attendance, there would be strong interest in what was going on in Asia now.