The Robin Hood Foundation gala, Wall Street’s largest single-evening fundraising event, raised a record of more than $88 million at its New York dinner last night to feed and clothe the city’s destitute.
The sum, donated by more than 3,600 attendees including executives at Wall Street banks, hedge funds and private-equity companies, exceeded last year’s record of $72.7 million. Pledges were still coming in after the dinner and the final tally might be in as early as today, David Saltzman, the nonprofit’s co-founder and executive director, said in an interview.
“I’m bowled over by people’s extraordinary generosity,” Saltzman said after the event. “I’m bowled over that New Yorkers have come together to save lives.”
Hedge-fund managers are among the core supporters of Robin Hood, the brainchild of Paul Tudor Jones II, chairman of Tudor Investment Corp. After a decline in 2008, the industry rose an average 1.3 percent in April as stock markets climbed, the Chicago-based researcher Hedge Fund Research Inc. said this month. The industry rose 3.8 percent this year through April.
The foundation raises money for 200 of New York’s poverty-fighting organizations. Its board -- which includes Jones, Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, S.A.C. Capital Advisors LP’s Steven A. Cohen, film producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Gwyneth Paltrow -- covers the gala’s cost so that all proceeds go to the beneficiaries.
Money raised at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last night included matching contributions by the board members.
The Robin Hood gala has become a symbolic gesture by which Wall Street’s richest help the city’s poorest. About 55 percent of New York’s babies are born into poverty and 37,000 people sleep in shelters, according to its Web site.
The evening’s fundraising got a boost with about $26.4 million in after-dinner pledges made by donors using wireless devices at each table. Actors Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, with husband Michael Douglas at her side, and New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan, egged on diners at nearby tables to give all they could during the three rounds of pledges.
After a slow start of less than $1 million, a $9 million tally from Ryan’s section of the hall pushed its guests to first place from last on the donor board, prompting Tudor Jones to yell into Ryan’s microphone, declaring victory.
The festivities, hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, usually feature a surprise musical guest, and this year was no exception. The audience gasped when Sting took the stage with an acoustic guitar and sang “Message in a Bottle,” a song he recorded with the Police in 1979.
Comedy filled the evening as late-night talk-show host Jimmy Fallon went onstage posing as a country singer with a cowboy hat and Southern accent. He sang a humorous country-style ballad, “Cougar Huntin’,” a song about chasing older women who prey on younger men.
The word “cougar” caught on for the rest of the evening as Thurman and Zeta-Jones laughed and joked with fellow diners. Even JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, the gala’s co-chair, went with the flow before speaking to the audience about the need to support Robin Hood.
“Jimmy Fallon, I know you’re hunting for a cougar, but I’m going home with one tonight -- my wife who’s out there somewhere. So good luck in your hunting,” Dimon said.