Archive for the ‘Assorted Journalism’ Category

*This story originally appeared in the Aspen Business Journal(.com) on June 5, 2011.

Aspen’s Lunch Leader

by Corby Anderson

ASPEN, Colo—There was a time, not so long ago in fact, when Aspen’s most popular weekly business lunch was an exclusive affair open only to the male form of the human business species.

Started in 1975 by local legend Ron Krajain, the “Friday Men’s Lunch” was a weekly social get together frequented by a tight-knit fraternity of Aspen businessmen. For decades thereafter, the members of this private club would gather weekly to trade barbs, impress each other with their witticisms and share a testosterone-amplified pre-weekend meal. And then along came Todd Shaver, the Great Emancipator of the Aspen business lunch scene.

Shaver’s Aspen landing story is a familiar one: the Brooklyn-born trader and financial analyst moved to Aspen eight years ago to work, ski, and create a new, simpler life after toiling away most of his in the eastern power cities. Early on in his tenure as a local, at the urging of a friend, he attended a Friday Men’s Lunch at its former location at Jimmy’s restaurant, and immediately came to appreciate the event for its networking potential.  “ I got it right away,” says Shaver. “You could sit right up front and ask questions. You could see if they (the speakers) were telling the truth, and I never missed one.”

But one thing seriously bugged the normally jovial Shaver: the glaring exclusion of businesswomen from the group, an antiquity left over from the “old boys” Aspen, which he vowed to change.

In the early days of internet investing, Shaver became convinced that his unique perspective and financial expertise was a commodity unto itself. After working for 28 years as an investor with kingmaking financial services firms Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, Shaver resigned his post and put his impressive natural energy and self- faith into his own company, creating an online financial newsletter called Bullmarket.com. His hard work paid off, and he quickly built his daily readership levels up to Huffington-like numbers, above 700,000 subscribers. That success convinced him that he could take his show on the road, and combine his love of the outdoors and the base of his business operations in the same small Colorado town.

“I was among the initial wave of business people who moved their entire office operations onto a laptop,” says Shaver, a sensibly fit, amiable fellow who first looked at Vail as his potential new home before settling on Aspen. “There is no there, there,” says Shaver, referring to the rival ski town. “Aspen’s a great town,” added Shaver, his point punctuated by his thumb, which jerked back over his shoulder in the direction of the mountain behind his chair at Peaches Cafe, calling attention to a sparkling blue sky that cast Aspen Mountain in heavenly white suspension on a belated spring day.

During the first of his eight winters here, Shaver was relatively proud to have skied a total of 41 days. Every morning that he could, the trader railed the local mountains, and every night, regardless, he wrote his “letter” (modernly known less elegantly as a “blog”) for Bullmarket.com. Eventually, the business reached such a zenith that Shaver chose to sell it, a decision that allowed him to focus on his own trading and investing, laps and turns.

This winter, during what, according to Shaver, was “the longest season in the history of Aspen,” he skied a thigh-searing, impossible sounding 156 days. But that might not be the most impressive feat that Shaver pulled off over this past year. No, that designation has to go to his ascendancy to the helm of what is now known, thanks to him, as the Aspen Business Luncheon.

“First thing that I did was get rid of the name “Men’s,” chuckles Shaver, who saw clearly the need to unite the sexes professionally. “We love women!” he exclaims. “I wanted our group to be a reflection of today’s business community,” he adds, before expanding on his reasons for being involved in the Luncheon. “I just like getting people together. I’ll see somebody at breakfast and introduce them to someone that they may not know but who they really should know. I’m a middle man,” Shaver explains.

His next move was to relocate the newly named gathering to its current location at the Hotel Jerome, where attendance spiked to upwards of 200 this winter, thanks in large part to Shaver’s gift for attracting heavy hitting speakers. Last winter saw a veritably who’s who of Aspen business leaders: Leenny “Boogie” Weinglass, Klaus Obermeyer, Amy Margerum, and Olympian-turned national charity spokesman Chris Klug are just a few of this past year’s Aspen Business Luncheon featured speakers.

Aspen Ski Company Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schendler was invited to speak and discussed the history and evolution of SkiCo’s environmentalism to a crowd of “about 40 people…on a powder day,” said Schendler, who came away impressed by Todd Shaver and by the networking effectiveness of the luncheon.

“The business luncheon is a group of smart, interested, polite and open minded people. It’s a testimony to Todd’s work to bring in good speakers and to keep the event high quality for attendees,” says Schendler. “Over the past six months I’ve been randomly running into people who I don’t know who mention that they had been at the luncheon, and it starts conversations.”  

Not surprisingly, Shaver, along with Luncheon moderator/facilitators Terry Hale and Steve Wickes, have big plans for this summer’s networking series, a few of which Shaver expects might top 300 attendees, including talks by Walter Isaacson, who is expected to speak about his current project – a book about Apple founder Steve Jobs; as well as the owner of the Empire State Building, Tony Malkin, who will co-present with resident energy efficiency genius Amory Lovins in speaking about the retrofitting of the venerable landmark for, you guessed it, energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, Shaver is ramping up his efforts to land a title sponsor for the Luncheon, while personally maintaining his edge as a trader/investor (he’s currently big on Apple and silver.) “I’m just happy to bring interesting people and organizations together as a community benefit,” he proclaims before abruptly reaching out to flag down a coffee-wielding passerby, the recently re-elected Mayor, who recognizes the luncheon leader and readily engages in a mid-aisle chat. Of course, not before being warmly introduced to the writer profiling the winking Shaver.

The Aspen Business Luncheon is open to anyone interested in attending. The luncheon occurs at 12:30 pm, every Wednesday at the Hotel Jerome starting on June 15th. Tickets are $30 per seat. Be sure to reserve a seat in advance, as the luncheon does occasionally sell out.


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