(Bloomberg) -- As San Francisco prepares to host its largest international summit in decades next month, a who’s who of billionaire families and tech companies are chipping in to back the city’s fundraising efforts. Among the donors: the Pritzkers, the Fishers, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc.
But the largest benefactor is a Native American tribe with a prominent casino operation and deep ties to California’s Democratic politicians.
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, based an hour north of San Francisco, donated more than $4.6 million to help the city host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, when world leaders and tens of thousands of visitors will descend on the Bay Area.
The No. 2 donor is Ripple Labs Inc., a crypto firm, at $2 million, while fellow San Francisco-based companies Prologis Inc., Salesforce Inc., and Visa Inc. each donated $1 million, according to the fundraising figures released by the city. Apple — the world’s most valuable company – also chipped in $1 million. Google provided $250,000, as did the Pritzkers and the Fishers.
San Francisco leaders are banking on the international spotlight to improve the city’s public image, which has been marred by a homelessness crisis and a sluggish downtown recovery since the pandemic. President Joe Biden will attend, along with 30,000 international delegates and 1,200 CEOs who are expected to fill hotels and restaurants from November 11-17.
“We want to make sure that the leaders, the delegates, the heads of state, the CEOs have a really incredible experience so they can go back and report the San Francisco that they know,” Mayor London Breed said in an interview.
Breed called for $20 million in private donations to help San Francisco roll out the red carpet for delegates and international media with dinners, receptions and transportation. The city has now raised $20.1 million, according to the fundraising list. It includes a $500,000 donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the philanthropic organization of Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
San Francisco has set aside another $10 million in taxpayer funds, mostly for extra policing. The event is expected to generate $50 million in economic benefits, according to the mayor’s Office of Protocol. The summit is also seen as a much-needed way to boost the city’s appeal to Asian tourists.
While the support of major technology companies was expected, Graton Rancheria’s outsized role was unusual. The tribe owns one of the state’s largest casinos, near Napa Valley’s famed wine country. A major Democratic donor, it has also been a primary backer of a successful campaign to oppose the legalization of online gambling in California. But the tribe has little direct connection to an international summit centered around political and trade relations with Asia.
“They wanted to be the premier sponsor and so that’s what it took,” Breed said. She said she met Greg Sarris, the tribe’s chairman, at an event for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, leading to their relationship and the donation. As the biggest donor, the tribe will be “at the top of the list” for publicity, Breed said. That will give their casino international exposure and business connections.
The donation will “put us on the map and at the same time is an opportunity to help our beloved San Francisco,” Sarris said. Being the premier donor “showcases our business and who we are in a very significant way.”
He said he hopes to provide transportation for delegates to visit the casino on their time off.
Hamid Moghadam, chief executive officer of Prologis, one of the world’s largest warehouse owners, said the region’s private sector is excited to put San Francisco’s best foot forward next month. Moghadam made headlines last year after he was robbed at gunpoint, and he has been critical of the city’s responses to homelessness and public safety. Still, he said, outsiders have blown San Francisco’s problems out of proportion.
“There is a little bit of schadenfreude,” he said. APEC “has energized a lot of people to show the city at its best.”
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