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The Billionaires at Burning Man

Move over, Google Bus. There's a new symbolic fight over tech money, class, and privilege

For his 50th birthday, Jim Tananbaum, chief executive officer of Foresite Capital, threw himself an extravagant party at Burning Man, the annual sybaritic arts festival and all-hours rave that attracts 60,000-plus to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada over the week before Labor Day. Tananbaum’s bash went so well, he decided to host an even more elaborate one the following year. In 2014 he’d invite up to 120 people to join him at a camp that would make the Burning Man experience feel something like staying at a pop-up W Hotel. To fund his grand venture, he’d charge $16,500 per head.

Tananbaum, a contemporary art collector who resembles the actor Bob Saget, grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and graduated from Yale and Harvard, where he earned both an M.D. and an MBA. After years of starting, selling, and investing in health-care companies, he founded Foresite in 2011. A private venture capital firm with $650 million under management, San Francisco-based Foresite specializes in the health-care and pharmaceutical industries.