Langone, Gabelli, Carl Hiaasen, Jimmy Buffett: Palm Beach Scene

Everglades Foundation
Sonia Jones and Paul Tudor Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp., at the Everglades Foundation benefit in February 2011. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“I love the Everglades,” Paul Tudor Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Tudor Investment Corp., said in his Tennessee twang.

He was standing in the center of the ballroom at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, at a benefit dinner and auction Friday night for the Everglades Foundation. Jones is chairman of the organization, which works to restore millions of acres of wetlands and waterways in Florida. He knows the landscape: He has a home amid the Everglades in Islamorada, Florida.

“Being on the flats right at sunset, it’s one of those rare treats in life that you can’t ever try to put a value on,” Jones said, dressed in an outdoorsy long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans.

The ballroom offered different experiences. Stephen M. Ross, chairman of The Related Cos. LP, said he’d sell Jones the Miami Dolphins in a few years. Pat Riley, vice president of the Miami Heat, appeared in a video giving a tour of the basketball team’s locker room. An auction package including jerseys and sneakers from LeBron James and other players went for $100,000.

The writer Carl Hiaasen and his wife, Fenia, posed for pictures in matching cowboy hats. The dress code was country-and-western, in honor of chart-topper Kenny Chesney, who performed.

Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and chairman of Invemed Associates Inc., spoke of enjoying nature while playing golf. Many guests mentioned the roseate spoonbill, a pink bird with an odd beak. Marshall Field, chairman of Field Corp., wasn’t among them.

“I love the birds, but the crux of the matter is water,” he said. Man-made canals send water into the ocean and the Gulf of Mexico; the Everglades Foundation is planning storage areas in the wetlands so water can re-enter the public water supply.

Mac and Cheese

As guests dug into beef barbecue and small skillets filled with macaroni and cheese, the foundation’s chief executive officer, Kirk Fordham, told Bloomberg News the event was expected to raise $2 million, about 25% of its annual budget. He also said the budget has increased during the recession by more than 20%.

“We’ve been raising more money by placing greater emphasis on bringing people out.”

After their private tour by airboat, Charles and Deborah Royce went home to Greenwich, Connecticut, and ordered a hand-painted mural with an Everglades theme for their stairwell.

“It’s backwoods and trees and birds and panthers,” said Charles Royce, chief executive officer and chairman of Royce & Associates LLC.

Mario Gabelli, chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors Inc., went on the same tour.

‘Desk Outdoors’

“We got a good update on the whole ecosystem,” Gabelli said. As for his own outdoor time, usually spent in Wyoming, where he has a home: “I prefer being outdoors and having my desk outdoors. With a wireless connection and an iPad you can do that.”

By 10 o’clock, Jimmy Buffett, a foundation board member, had joined Chesney onstage for a few songs.

“Hey, Jimmy, don’t fall off the stage,” Chesney said, a reference to his fall at a concert in Australia that knocked him unconscious.

“I was thinking about it,” Buffett said. “There’s a lot of good-looking chicks down there. I think I would fall softer than I did last time.”

Jaclyn Raulerson, Miss Florida 2010, put a cowboy hat over her tiara and kept on message. “I’m a ninth-generation Floridian and restoration is extremely important to me. I love the Florida panther.”

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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