Rupert Murdoch Joins Bay Area Donors At Fundraiser To Fight Poverty

May 9 2014, 10:36pm CDT | by

Addressing 1,200 of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most well-heeled tech and investment leaders Thursday night, Daniel Lurie sounded like the conscience of the tech boom.

“Despite the success we see all around us — buildings, construction, news of IPOs — one in five people are still living in poverty,” said Lurie, framed by a projection of the twilit San Francisco skyline. “It’s up to us. Every single child in this region deserves to dream of becoming an engineer at Google or a Fortune 500 CEO.”

Lurie, who is the son of Levi Strauss & Co. board director Miriam Haas and stepson of its late executive Peter E. Haas, Sr., heads the poverty-fighting nonprofit Tipping Point Community. Dressed in an orange tie and making liberal use of President Obama’s signature “Thumb Jab,” he urged executives to take responsibility for giving back.

“This is my city. This is our city. This is our region. And I’m not satisfied with the do-no-harm approach,” he said.

Whether it was Lurie’s emphatic speech, a rising tide of anti-tech backlash in the Bay Area or the rosier economy, the message seemed to resonate. Guests at Tipping Point’s eighth annual benefit donated a record $12 million over the course of the evening to the organization’s mission of ending poverty in the Bay Area.

Among the guests was billionaire Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp. He tagged along with his new girlfriend, Juliet de Baubigny, a millionaire Silicon Valley-based investor and Tipping Point donor. As of Friday, the organization couldn’t say whether the pair had contributed this year because it hadn’t yet tallied all the gifts.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Zynga cofounder Mark Pincus, along with executives from Google, Salesforce and Wells Fargo also attended. So did Tom Perkins, Bing Gordon, Ron Conway and other major Silicon Valley investors.

Gap cofounder and billionaire Doris Fisher, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck were also there.

Tipping Point’s message seems to be hitting home more than ever in its nine-year history. This year’s benefit raised some $3 million more than last year’s and attracted nearly 300 additional guests. And on Wednesday, the organization announced that 20 Bay Area companies had pledged a combined $10 million to the group in response to a 60-day challenge. These included Apple, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, Salesforce, LinkedIn and Zynga.

The campaign, dubbed SF Gives, was the brainchild of billionaire Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

“The grassroots of San Francisco let its voice be known that it wasn’t happy that these tech companies were coming here, using San Francisco infrastructure, safety services and schools, using the community to make these immense amounts of capital, and not giving back,” Benioff said in a phone interview with Forbes. “Now there’s a clear message that if you’re coming to San Francisco, you better be ready to give back to San Francisco.”

Next, Benioff hopes to challenge 100 companies to commit a combined $50 million  to Tipping Point within a year. He says he chose Tipping Point to distribute the funds because of the group’s history of investing in well-performing nonprofits that tackle the many sides of poverty.

Tipping Point vets and funds Bay Area nonprofits that improve access to education, jobs, housing and healthcare for the region’s low-income residents. The organization’s board — which includes Fortress Investment Group Chairman Pete Briger, Microsoft executive Tony Bates and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York — covers all its operating costs. That means all the money it raises goes to the 45 nonprofits it funds, with five more to be added after this year’s gala.

At the benefit, which took place on a pier in the shadow of San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark, sequins and stilettos mingled with geeky glasses. Striped caution tape adorned tables and chairs, and faux road signs read “Good Work Ahead” and “End Poverty.” The message was clear: San Francisco was under construction, and the people in the room would help define what it looked like.

Guests chowed down on roasted game hen and asparagus with ricotta. After dinner, Christie’s auctioneer Lydia Fenet cheekily goaded guests to open their wallets (calling bidders “hotties” seemed to help). Guests placed their bids by raising orange glowsticks.

When Tipping Point beat its $7 million goal, a four-ton robot built by Bot and Dolly, the studio that helped the film Gravity simulate weightlessness, danced and created a light show. The robot almost upstaged OneRepublic and DJ Ruckus, who performed later in the night./>/>

Follow me on Twitter @katiasav.

 
 

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