Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern and retired Gen. David Petraeus were among the headliners helping ACG Los Angeles draw a packed house of 1,200 attendees at its annual two-day Business Conference.
Bernanke was positive about the current state of the U.S. economy, but remained concerned about Europe’s pervasive instability.
“Knock on wood, I’m encouraged where we’re going,” he said at the opening lunch on Sept. 16. But Europe’s economy, he warned, “is very soft, very flat,” with stalwarts such as Germany now showing signs of weakness.
Stern, who spoke on the second day, tracked the National Basketball Association’s evolution over his 36-year career. He helped transform pro basketball from a lackluster sport in the 1970s to its current position as a global enterprise watched in 215 countries and translated into 47 languages.
“Sports allow us to engage the world in important conversations,” Stern added, noting that debates about issues such as racism and domestic violence take center stage when celebrity players are involved.
Petraeus, who closed the conference, addressed a range of topics, including the U.S. war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which he foresees as a protracted conflict requiring improved coordination between the U.S. and its allies.
He ended on an up note, suggesting that coming decades will bring renewed prosperity to the United States, which is set to benefit from an “energy revolution,” as well as a resurgence in manufacturing, information technology and the life sciences.
Interspersed throughout the two days were a series of featured speakers and panels covering topics such as the impact of the Affordable Care Act on private equity firms, current M&A trends in media and telecoms, and the challenges of banking in “frothy” capital markets, among others.
There was no shortage of glitz at the event, which was held at the historic Beverly Hilton, known for hosting the Golden Globes and its roster of legendary star-studded guests whose portraits line the hotel walls.
Amid record hot temperatures in Southern California, attendees cooled down at a rooftop ACG Capital Connection®, a poolside cocktail hour and a series of private events hosted by banking, legal services, accounting and consulting sponsors.