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Tiburon won't invite Ken Fisher back after controversial comments

After controversial comments during a fireside chat, Ken Fisher won’t be getting another invitation to Tiburon’s exclusive CEO Summit.

Chip Roame, Tiburon’s managing partner, made the announcement without naming Fisher in an open letter to the industry posted on the firm’s website. He also commended Alex Chalekian, CEO of Lake Avenue Financial, who posted a video on Twitter expressing disgust with comments Fisher made at the conference.

Roame said the comments were “unacceptable,” and defended his conference’s exclusive invitation-only nature as intended to promote candid discussions among CEOs, not hide offensive behavior.

The incident came to light Tuesday, when Chalekian broke the summit’s media policy to share his “disgust” on Twitter with Fisher’s comments, saying he spoke about genitalia and picking up a girl.

“When I was listening to this stuff, I did not know if this was a joke or what was going on. I was a deer in headlights. My jaw dropped,” Chalekian says in the video. “We need to change this and we need to change it now. And I was truly disappointed with what occurred.”

The video has been watched more than 120,000 times and elicited a range of responses, with some applauding Chalekian for speaking out while others deriding him for not being able to take a joke. Several people said on Twitter Fisher had made similarly crass comments at other speaking events. Two other attendees of this year’s Tiburon panel confirmed Chalekian’s account.

In a statement Wednesday, Fisher apologized and said his meaning had been misconstrued. “While I said words he cited I don’t think he heard me correctly and clearly misconstrued my meaning and certainly my intended meaning. Most of his slant is ‘gotcha’ wrong in my view. To the extent he and any others were offended I apologize truly and sincerely."

A cameraman films a television monitor showing Kenneth Fisher, chief executive officer of Fisher Investments, speaking in a panel discussion at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. The next 10 years will be as good for investors as the 1990s, said Fisher. Photographer: Gillianne Tedder/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ken Fisher
A cameraman films a television monitor showing Kenneth Fisher, chief executive officer of Fisher Investments, speaking in a panel discussion at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 28, 2010.

Fisher maintains a high profile, having written several bestselling books and been a commentator on Fox Business. His firm, Fisher Investments, is a fee-only RIA with more than $112 billion under management.

Roame had been with Fisher on stage during the summit.

“I can, in no way, condone or find acceptable what I heard in the way that I understood its intent. These comments lacked the dignity and respect that should be expected by any Tiburon CEO Summit speaker or attendee,” Roame wrote.

He said he had issued an apology to summit attendees during a dinner event, and that he had also solicited opinions from female attendees.

It’s also not the first time Tiburon has opted not to re-invite a speaker or attendee, according to Roame.

“Tiburon has removed dozens of prior Tiburon CEO Summit attendees from the Tiburon CEO Summit invitee list for a variety of reasons, including insulting comments, disrespectful remarks, sales efforts and lack of discretion,” he wrote.

The tweet and ensuing flap was a rare peek into Tiburon’s invitation-only summit, which hosts a number of wealth management CEOs and executives. It is not open to the public and the media, and attendees are not supposed to discuss its activities — a fact Chalekian and a handful of other attendees noted when tweeting about the incident.

While Roame noted that Chalekian broke the rules, he commended his tweet.

“While Alex did technically violate the Tiburon CEO Summit media policy, he recognized that the issues of dignity, respect, and inclusion are more important than the Tiburon CEO Summit media policy, and he took action,” he wrote.

With regard to the event’s closed-door nature, Roame said Tiburon’s participants “believe that media would inhibit candid discussion.”

“Tiburon seeks candid exchanges of views, not to hide inappropriate, offensive, and/or crude remarks,” Roame wrote.

Roame posted his letter Thursday. He previously had not responded to media requests for comment with regard to Fisher’s statements during the conference.

The summit’s agenda includes discussions of trends in wealth management, from financial advisor technology to alternative investments, according to Tiburon’s website. There was also a tribute to Jud Bergman, the recently deceased CEO of Envestnet.

The website states that for the $35,000 sponsors pay for the summit each year, they receive invitations for C-level executives and access to Tiburon research, among other benefits.

Roame closed his letter with several recommendations, including a call to better promote diversity and inclusion within the industry.

“Do not assume too quickly. Do not judge too quickly. Do not tell us that we must prioritize replying to journalists,” he said. “Do not claim that we refused to comment (which is not true). Watch our actions. Help us. The industry’s issue will not be improved by a few people sending off uniformed [sic] tweets and emails, making further accusations. Propose how you can work with Tiburon to address these issues.”

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