Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) may be an elected official, but he hasn't stopped partying with his private-sector friends.
The day before Thanksgiving, Warner held his 16th annual Pilgrims' Lunch at the Palm restaurant in downtown Washington. The tradition is to first play a pickup basketball game -- this year it was at the Sports Club/LA -- and then eat a whole lot of steak.
About 20 people showed up for the game, and about 100 for the lunch. Technology elite such as former AOL executive Jack Davies, Transaction Network Services chief executive Jack McDonnell, MicroStrategy chief executive Michael Saylor, venture capitalist Mark Ein and Proxicom founder Raul Fernandez -- also some of Warner's top campaign donors -- ate the traditional big meal in preparation for the following day of turkey.
"It was his old friends getting together," says Ein, who both played basketball and attended the lunch. "He definitely wants to stay connected."
Warner co-hosts the party with Steve Brady, a managing director with the private client bank of Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown. Brady and Warner met each other on the basketball court of a local YMCA on the day before Thanksgiving many years ago and found themselves heading from the Y to the Palm. They had so much fun they decided to make it an annual tradition, inviting all their closest friends. Since some of Brady's clients are the tech elite, they have many in common. Usually there are a couple of hours of mingling, then a huge lunch is served and Warner and Brady tell jokes, make toasts and give thanks. "We pick on Mark and make fun of him," says Brady, although he said this year the governor's roast was gentler than in times past.
The most recent basketball game was similar to previous ones, says Ein, although it does seem a bit different when one of the players has bodyguards watching from the sidelines. "Mark still plays basketball but has guards to make sure he doesn't get roughed up," says Ein.
Nicholas Perrins, who manages Warner's personal investments through MRW Enterprises, says the group also included politicians, ambassadors, lobbyists and pollsters. "It's a real mix of politics and tech," says Perrins.
Topics of cocktail chatter included speculation about the economy, the governor's first year in office, several recent local business deals and people's plans for the holidays.
One big topic of conversation among local techies these days is how Alex Mandl, former chief executive of bankrupt telecom firm Teligent, is faring as chief executive of French smart-card maker Gemplus. Many of the top executives during the boom are looking for a new platform, and Mandl's move to Gemplus -- and questions about whether he will operate it out of Washington or France -- has created much buzz. "People are figuring out their next move," says Ein, although he added that many are staying underground for now, still not seeing particularly stellar opportunities at the top. "There's a natural life cycle of these things," he says.
Those attending the lunch were asked, as usual, to donate to Food for Others. The event raised $10,000, says Perrins.
The Pilgrims' Lunch was the latest in a string of get-togethers Warner has been holding for his longtime friends. On Oct. 24 he held a dinner "reunion" at the governor's mansion in Richmond for the members of the Capital Investors, a social and investing club, and their wives. Many of them flew in on private jets. Attendees included Jonathan Silver of venture capital firm Core Capital Partners and John Sidgmore of WorldCom.
After the election, Warner had to officially stop attending the group's dinners, which feature investment pitches from young companies. But he decided to use a social event to keep that network going.
And on Sept. 21, Warner held his 13th annual pig roast at his farm on the Rappahannock River in King George County. That yearly beer-and-pig-fest attracts a couple thousand of Warner's supporters and is his largest thank-you event of the year.
Because Virginia has a one-term limit on the governorship, Warner will be looking for a new project in just three years. He's trying not to burn any bridges in the meantime and making sure he enjoys himself along the way with his friends and fundraisers, the deep network he has fed for years.
Brady says he's positive Warner already has his next stage planned, although Brady isn't sure what the path will be. "He knows," says Brady. "He doesn't always share it."
Shannon Henry's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.