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Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Gather Fellow Philanthropists For "Informal Get-Together"

Thursday, 21 May 2009 | 11:29 AM ET
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, right, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates participate in a Q & A session with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Business Administration, in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Sept. 30, 2005.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, right, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates participate in a Q & A session with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Business Administration, in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Sept. 30, 2005.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Warren Buffett and his friend Bill Gates reportedly joined with David Rockefeller Sr. to invite a group of the world's richest people to gather in one room earlier this month.

The agenda wasn't world domination. It was making philanthropy more effective.

Among the other well-known, and very wealthy names, attending the meeting on May 5 in New York City: Michael Bloomberg, Peter Peterson, George Soros, Ted Turner, and Oprah Winfrey.

The private meeting was not announced before-hand, or discussed publicly afterward, until a report on IrishCentral.com earlier this week.

Oprah Winfrey
AP
Oprah Winfrey

The "unusual" and "unprecedented" gathering was then confirmed by several other news organizations, including ABCNews.com.

In The New York Times City Room blog, A.G. Sulzberger points out it "took weeks before anyone noticed" that some of "America's more prominent and successful capitalists managed to meet this month at Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side to discuss philanthropy."

While some headlines around the web have continued to call it a "secret" meeting, one of the few participants speaking on the record downplays that aspect.

Former Gates Foundation Chief Executive Patty Stonesifer tells the Seattle News:

"It wasn't secret. It was meant to be a gathering among friends and colleagues. It was something folks have been discussing for a long time. Bill and Warren hoped to do this occasionally. They sent out an invite and people came... This was about philanthropy and this group sharing their passions their interests. They each learned from each other about what could really make a difference."

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a similar quote from Stonesifer, who "helped coordinate" the meeting on behalf of Buffett, Gates, and Rockefeller:

"A group of philanthropists came together to discuss their giving. There’s really no secret about that. It was an informal get-together and a chance to exchange ideas about what motivates them and what they have learned so far. There was an enormous amount of enthusiasm and excitement around their giving and that was a very big part of what they were there for."

While declining to say exactly what the group discussed, Stonesifer tells the Chronicle the group is not working on some specific global collaboration. "We agreed to continue the dialogue in the future, but there were no specific action items out of the meeting."

That lack of 'action' could be a disappointment to John Berman at ABC's Good Morning America. He light-heartedly compared the event to a gathering of cartoon super heroes, specifically the Saturday morning "Super Friends" of the 1970s and 80s.

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Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

An early version of this post incorrectly characterized IrishCentral.com's news reputation. I regret the error.

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