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Bush and Clinton Show on Tour

A friend, John Aidan Byrne, our long-time corrrespondent writes:

Amidst tight security, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush slipped quietly into Manhattan last night –- escaping media attention -- to speak at the private launch of an ambitious program by UBS Wealth Management Americas. It was aimed squarely at stimulating debate on the U.S. economy, well-informed industry sources exclusively told Registered Rep.

The extraordinary, invitation-only event at Jazz at Lincoln Center was attended by some 400 guests of whom many are wealthy, or prospective UBS clients. The guests rubbed shoulders with former Senator Phil Gramm – today vice chairman at UBS Investment Bank -- and with political pundit James Carville, a former Clinton hand.

The highlight was the rock star presence of the two former Presidents on stage for an hour, seated next to UBS Wealth Management Americas CEO, Robert J. McCann. McCann conducted a sort of conversational Q&A on topics such as the economy, education, jobs, energy, and global security. On the reported killing of Osama bin Laden, both presidents “complimented” the administration for its approach, the sources said. The two former Presidents said the removal of bid Laden was a matter of justice; not about “vengeance because America is not a vengeful country.” That is how one source characterized the view of the two Presidents last night.

According to the sources, the two former presidents were on friendly terms, at ease in each other’s company -- and in agreement on many of the big issues. Although both presidents acknowledge the nation had some serious economic challenges, they both sounded an optimistic tone. “The solution was all about economic growth, growing the economy–that’s how they put it,” said the source. “Both made the point, again and again, that this is a country of opportunity and freedom. Sacrifices are needed all around but both expressed supreme confidence that we have the collective ability to overcome these problems and to innovate and grow.”

Said one well-placed source: “The two former Presidents talked about the U.S. debt, how it is a huge issue and how a bipartisan approach to fixing it is required. But they also stressed that Congress needs to take a long-term view and make the hard calls – and this was a question of courage and of making unpopular decisions in fixing our economic programs.”

McCann, the former Merrill Lynch brokerage chief who heads up the UBS Americas business, launched its report last night on the challenges for the economy, titled, Revitalizing America: Forging a New Path to Economic Prosperity. The report was authored by UBS WMA chief investment strategist Michael Ryan who moderated a panel with Gramm and Carville. That report contains a new survey that UBS conducted with 2,500 individual clients and prospective clients. (See, Registered Rep., May 9, National Dent is No. 1 Worry for Wealthy, Good Focus for Client Conversations. The report urges a fundamental reexamination of the role that government played after the 2008 fiscal crisis. The closed-door event at Jazz at Lincoln Center last night is part of a new series of speaking engagements UBS plans to host in the coming months along with related programs.

“U.S. investors’ concerns about global competitiveness, the budget deficit, unemployment, and the dollar, have inspired us to initiate a conversation with our clients about what it will take to revitalize America,” McCann said.

The coming together of both former Presidents might be something of a signal accomplishment. It comes some 18 months after one promoter’s efforts to host both men in Radio City were torpedoed after he was accused of over-hype. UBS Wealth Management Americas can’t be accused of that – although details on the event were publicly announced in advance, there was no advance announcement on the Presidents.

UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne confirmed there was a private client event in New York last night hosted by Bob McCann, which included Mike Ryan who moderated the panel with Gramm and Carville. As for the two former Presidents, she said. “I have no comment on that.”

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