He Doesn't Do Weddings Or Bar Mitzvahs But...by
In Moscow, he's a relic of a bygone era. Yet bring Mikhail S. Gorbachev to the U.S., and he can still get foreign policy pooh-bahs and corporate chieftains to swoon like anxious teens gasping at the sight of Axl Rose. On his current U.S. tour, for instance, Gorbachev is being feted by the likes of Ronald Reagan, President Bush, and former PepsiCo Chairman Donald M. Kendall.
The two-week swing is designed to raise money for the Gorbachev Foundation, a Moscow think tank. Gorby groupies are paying big bucks to dine with the last man in the room when the lights went out on communism. There are the 500 guests who put up $5,000 each to attend a Reagan Library luncheon in Gorbachev's honor. And San Franciscans snapped up 4,000 tickets--at $40 a pop--to hear a Gorbachev speech. Says Atlantic Richfield Chairman Lodwrick M. Cook, who hosted the Reagan library fund-raiser: "Here is a man who brought about more freedom in the world."
Gorbachev is taking a cue from Reagan, who parlayed his White House years into millions in speaking fees and $70 million in backing for his library. The ex-Soviet leader hopes to use his red-star power in the U.S. to endow his research institute, which will study the transition of centrally planned states into market economies, find ways to defuse instability in Eastern Europe, and address the area's environmental crisis. When his tour ends, on May 15, Gorbachev will take home nearly $3 million for his Moscow center and its U.S. arm in San Francisco. During the next two years, his goal is to raise up to $70 million for an endowment, says Gorbachev tour manager James Garrison. That means calling in some chits from old pals such as Archer Daniels Midland Chairman Dwayne O. Andreas, who is hosting a luncheon in his honor at the Economic Club of New York, as well as Kendall, who plans to make a sizable corporate contribution. The MacArthur Foundation has also agreed to provide $50,000 to the think tank.
The Gorby blitz has had its share of problems. His May 2 arrival was overshadowed by the L.A. riots. And some potential donors--including former U.S. Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman--balked after failing to get enough details about the Gorbachev Institute's plans. Garrison says Hartman "never bothered to ask." Startup money, he says, will be used to hire staff and buy computers and telecommunications equipment for the two centers.
HIDDEN AGENDA? Even President Bush has taken flak for inviting Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, to the White House a month before he hosts a state visit by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, a Gorbachev rival. U.S. officials say the Gorbachevs are private guests of Bush.
Then there's the touchy issue of whether Gorbachev's think tank may be used to revive his political career. In early May, Gorbachev spoke of making a comeback. That has made one big-name sponsor, Henry A. Kissinger, a bit skittish about hosting a breakfast in New York on May 12 to support the institute. Says Kissinger: "It should look at long-term problems and should not engage in political activities."
But for a man with a Communist upbringing, Gorbachev has a knack for turning a profit. New York's Yeshiva University is expecting to rake in $975,000--with a big cut going to Gorby--for a black-tie dinner where the former Soviet leader will talk about anti-Semitism. At this pace, Gorbachev will soon be able to offer a few capitalist pointers to Reagan.