Ron Baron, chairman and founder of Baron Capital Management, New York, loves rock ‘n' roll. Since he assumes most of his investors do too, he's been spicing up his investor conferences in the last five years by booking top entertainers along with the chief executives of the companies in his firm's portfolios.
Paul Simon was the surprise star at this year's Baron conference, held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York earlier this month.
"Listening to slide presentations and questions and answers at institutional conferences can get boring. I thought it would be helpful to lighten it up with music," Mr. Baron explained in an interview.
He chooses musicians and comics he likes because he believes the majority of his investors are around his age, 60, and have similar tastes in music. Last year, Stevie Wonder was the star attraction. Five years ago, Billy Joel was the main event. In other years, Neil Diamond and Jerry Seinfeld were the stars of the day.
In addition to Mr. Simon's hour-long concert this year, which started after the presentations, lunch was also enhanced by live performances by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Jewel.
Mr. Baron said that he foots the bill for all expenses connected with the conference, but declined to provide specifics. Attendees aren't aware of who the performers will be until they take the stage.
Twelve years ago, only 80 people attended his first conference, he recalled. "I asked just about every one of them to come, as a favor."
But Baron conferences have built a reputation as happenings, attracting large audiences from across the country. Mr. Baron said that 3,700 investors registered to attend this year, but only 2,500 could be accommodated.
Mr. Baron has also shortened CEO presentations to 15 minutes from 30 minutes, followed by question-and-answer sessions. "A CEO should be able to get up and tell his company's story in 15 minutes," he said.
Chief executives and presidents who spoke this year were Linda Hunt of Weight Watchers International; Robert Silberman, Strayer Education Inc.; Constantine Iordanou, Arch Capital Group; Eric Schiffer, 99 Cents Only Stores; Bob Simpson, XTO Energy Inc.; and David Neeleman, JetBlue Airways Corp.