Meeting of America's Richest About 'Need,' Attendee Says

Billionaires

Under a cloak of secrecy, some of the world's wealthiest people gathered in an unprecedented meeting early this month in New York City "to see how they can join together to do more," according to one attendee.

Invited by the world's two richest men Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, along with David Rockefeller, a Who's Who of American wealth and influence gathered around a long table in a window-lined private room overlooking the East River on May 5.

"The overwhelming reason for the meeting was need -- that was the issue that galvanized everyone to participate," Patricia Stonesifer, senior advisor to the Gates foundation's trustees, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, told ABCNews.com. "This was a group very committed to philanthropy coming together to see how they can join together to do more."

Gates and Buffett were joined by billionaire moguls Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with heavyweight philanthropists George Soros and others.

Together the attendees have donated more than $70 billion to charity since 1996, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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A clandestine meeting of the country's rich and powerful, left off their public calendars and hidden from the press, is enough to spark the imaginations of conspiracy theorists everywhere, but attendees told ABC News.com the meeting was "100 percent about philanthropy" and it was not meant to be a secret.

"It was meant to be a private exchange but it wasn't a secret really, just a private meeting," Stonesifer said.

First reported by IrishCentral.com, ABCNews.com confirmed each of the attendees' presence at the meeting held at the residence of the Rockefeller University president on the campus of the Manhattan medical school.

It lasted about five hours, beginning in mid-afternoon and continuing through dinner, Stonesifer said.

"This particular group had never come together as a group before but many of the attendees had met in the past either individually or in smaller groups -- but never all at once," she said. "This was a great discussion and they agreed to continue the dialogue and meet again in the future. There were a lot of good ideas."

She said that the discussion "ranged from emergency relief efforts to scholarship efforts, to U.S. education efforts to global health."

Another attendee who asked to remain anonymous described the meeting as "a private gathering of friends and colleagues to share their history and excitement about their philanthropy. [It was] a group together discussing a range of things they are working on."

When again asked about the meeting following ABC News.com's initial report Mayor Bloomberg said he sometimes holds private meetings that are "not going to be on the public schedulues. There are meetings all over this city and there are some very powerful people in this city."

Bloomberg who would not directly comment on the meeting or its outcome said: "You know I am very interested in private philanthropy, I think it has a unique place in our society in that with private dollars you can try new things, things that you can't do with public dollars."

There remain as many questions about the meeting's details as there are about the logistics behind its organization. How did some of the world's most public figures coordinate their schedules, travel, and security with no one in media knowing about it?

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