Hurricane Irene Cancellations Shine Light on Local Talent at Global Business Strategy Forum in New York City

Hurricane Irene forced sudden changes in the agenda of the Global Business Strategy China Forum on August 31 in New York City, which was to have brought together about 120 American and Chinese C-suite executives who were participating in an innovative joint program of the Columbia University Business School in New York City and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing. None of the 60 Chinese CEOs could attend because of the hurricane flight cancellations. An original highlight of the China Forum was the half day of networking between the Chinese and American CEOs, and an elaborate dinner gala was planned on the rooftop of the St. Regis Hotel. But in the end, the American participants, who also attended three days of intensive academic lectures on China business strategy, deemed the program an unmistakable success.

In partnership with Columbia and Cheung Kong to organize the China Forum, the Committee of 100 contributed staff expertise (Executive Director Angie Tang and Special Projects director Alice Lin) to help plan logistics and re-craft the Forum agenda to create a post-Irene program and networking experience. The Committee members who were panelists at the Forum braved Irene to take part in the re-configured event, which was a luncheon symposium at Columbia’s Low Memorial Library—Chairman of East West Bancorp and Committee of 100 Chairman Dominic Ng; President and CEO of Charlotte Russe Holdings Jenny Ming; and Lulu Wang, member of the Columbia Business School Board of Overseers and CEO of Tupelo Capital Management.

Dominic Ng with two of the
symposium participants.
Lulu Wang and Michael Malefakis.

Columbia Business School Associate Dean Michael Malefakis remarked that C-100 added great value to Forum, and its participation was all the more important because of the absence of the Chinese CEOs: “The Committee was a bridge between the American and Chinese business worlds, since many C-100 members were originally from Greater China and at the same time are familiar with the American and Chinese cultures and economies. It would have been a much less successful event if C-100 had not been involved.”

Columbia’s China Business Strategy Forum faculty director, Professor David Beim, noted that over an 18-hour period after learning about Irene’s likely effects, the organizers, including C-100, had to make quick decisions about whether to cancel, postpone or alter the program. When they decided to go ahead, some of the resulting changes proved rewarding. Two Columbia Business School Professors, both originally from China, substituted for two Chinese CEOs who were to have given lectures: political scientist Lu Xiaobo speaking on U.S.-China relations and finance and economics professor Wei Jiang on Chinese culture and values. Jiang was rated by participants as the most popular speaker of the program and will be a leading speaker next year. The smaller, more intimate program with fewer than 50 participants made for an intense learning experience with more individual attention and meaningful exchanges. The participating C-100 members agreed—Ng especially enjoyed discussions with fellow panelists Frédéric de Narp, President & CEO, Harry Winston, Inc., a luxury jeweler and watchmaker, and Marco Mattiaci, CEO of Ferrari North America.

This is the second year of the joint program and China Forum and the first year that C-100 was a partner. This year, the CEOs taking part in the Columbia Business School program included participants from Europe, Brazil and Mexico, as well as the U.S. Alan Chen, Associate Director of Executive Education for the business school, provided much of the staff support for the forum.

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