This year’s TED Talk will be a mini-meeting of Epstein
The renowned TED Conference kicks off this Sunday in Vancouver, with more than 1,000 power brokers coming together to pitch earth-shattering ideas. But among futurists, physicists and artists, the sold-out event will also function as a reunion of sorts for late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s web of connections.
According to a private app that lists conference attendees and speakers, some of which were revealed to The Daily Beast, those with alleged links to Epstein include Bill Gates, former MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito (listed as a remote participant), Elon Musk, Google founder Sergey Brin, computer scientist Danny Hillis and former Gates adviser Boris Nikolic, who was named as deputy executor in Epstein’s last will.
The extent of the relationship shows just how much influence Epstein was able to cultivate in the years leading up to his death in a Manhattan cell in 2019.
Each person had a different level of closeness to Epstein. Gates, for example, has met the disgraced financier several times, as The Daily Beast previously reported. Hillis, meanwhile, got to know Epstein in the years before his 2008 guilty plea; the pair was chatting about currency trading. “He has something a physicist would call physical intuition,” Hillis said. New York magazine of Epstein’s investment prowess in 2002. That year, Epstein’s accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, sent packages via FedEx to a number of people, including Hillis, according to testimony at the criminal trial of the British socialite in December 2021.
The scientist also met him in 2015, according to a 2020 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Epstein’s ties and donations to the school.
Epstein himself has attended the TED conference over the years, including 2002 and 2011, and at least tried to mingle with the attendees in 2013. In the early 2000s, TED coincided with “billionaire dinners ultra-exclusive Edge Foundation curated by literary scholars. agent John Brockman, which Epstein and his entourage attended. ‘TED was hard to get into, but Jeffrey could show up with 11 people and they’d all get passes,’ a former conference regular told The Daily Beast, adding that the multi-millionaire once brought an entourage that included young people. women, with her assistant Sarah Kellen and former model Kelly Bovino among them.
Indeed, some acquaintances of Epstein claim to have met him at TED. When Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, was asked about his association with Epstein in 2019, his spokesperson said vanity lounge“At the time, Epstein was a regular at TED talks and he was a big donor for basic science research, so although Nathan knew him and socialized with him, that’s exactly where their association ends.”
The MIT report also said that Linda Stone, Epstein’s longtime associate, former Microsoft executive and MIT Media Lab advisory board member, introduced the financier to Ito at TED in February 2013. The document added, however, that ” multiple witnesses,” claimed “Epstein was banned by conference organizers from attending TED talks; and so Epstein instead encountered people in the hallways or in the lobby of a hotel.
The people mentioned in this story did not respond to emails about whether they would attend this year’s conference, except for Hillis, who confirmed he would be there.
The event remains very exclusive. A TED membership (assuming his application is accepted) starts at $5,000. A $250,000 option includes five years of membership, special concierge services and additional opportunities to mingle with speakers.
This year’s five-day event kicks off with appearances from Gary Kasparov, Pulitzer winner Alison Killing and Olympian Allyson Felix, and ends with a “farewell picnic”.
The conference is unlikely to highlight the controversial associations of some of its members.
Bill Gates is listed as a speaker on the TED 2022 website, although he is not included in the conference’s published program. (TED did not respond to an email seeking clarification.) The billionaire previously spoke to TED in 2015 about the potential risks of a global pandemic.
Gates’ Epstein links are now well documented. They are said to have first met at the financier’s townhouse in New York, three years after Epstein was found guilty of soliciting prostitution from a minor.
The couple stayed in touch; Gates even hitchhiked to Florida on Epstein’s private jet in 2013, when The New York Times reported in 2019. (His spokesperson insisted he did not know Epstein owned the plane.)
Sources previously told The Daily Beast that Gates enjoyed holding court at Epstein’s Manhattan hideout, which he reportedly viewed as an escape from his “toxic” marriage. The high-profile philanthropist also hoped the wealthy sex offender could help him win the Nobel Peace Prize, according to former Gates Foundation staff.
Gates’ ex-wife Melinda said in a TV interview last month that her encounters with Epstein were partly responsible for the demise of their marriage. She claimed to have met Epstein “exactly once” and immediately determined he was “obnoxious”.
Nikolic, a former adviser to Gates, also spent time with Epstein and reportedly acted as an intermediary between the two men. The biotech venture capitalist met Epstein through Melanie Walker, a neuroscientist who worked at the Gates Foundation from 2006.
the Time posted a photo of Nikolic at Epstein’s New York mansion in 2011. He posed for the photo alongside Gates, then-JPMorgan executive Jes Staley and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Days before Epstein died in 2019, he signed a last will that named Nikolic as the alternate executor for his estate of around $600 million. Nikolic declined to take the job and said he was “shocked” to learn he was named in the document.
“I have not been consulted on these matters and have no intention of performing these functions,” Nikolic said in a statement.
Musk, for his part, met Epstein at a dinner hosted several years ago by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. He admitted to vanity lounge that he went to Epstein for about half an hour, but did so at the request of his ex-wife, who “was curious to meet this strange person for a novel she was writing”.
Another report in Insider suggested Epstein set up Musk’s brother with a woman in a bid to gain closer access to the billionaire. That report also alleged that Epstein received a private visit from Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, a claim that Musk denied.
Musk also reportedly attended a dinner with Epstein in California in 2011, alongside Sergey Brin and other tech luminaries. No surprise: they had met for a TED talk.
As for Ito, the entrepreneur resigned from MIT’s Media Lab in the fall of 2019 when Epstein’s donations and access to prestigious universities came under increased scrutiny. (Ito was not the only MIT researcher to benefit from Epstein’s largesse. The late computer scientist Marvin Minsky received at least $100,000 from Epstein for his research, and Professor Seth Lloyd, who visited Epstein while ‘He was on free labor in Florida in 2008, hooked up to minus $225,000.)
Ito cultivated Epstein as a Media Lab donor after meeting him at TED in 2013, and from then until 2017 the financier made six donations totaling $525,000. Ito “remained hopeful that Epstein could donate in the millions,” the MIT report on Epstein states.
In 2018, Ito unsuccessfully tried to get $1.5 million from Epstein to fund research by Media Lab scientist Caleb Harper, who created a “personal food computer” but apparently didn’t work as advertised. Harper gave a TED talk on his device in 2015, and the video of the event has since been removed from TED’s website.
Ito attended meetings with Epstein, one of which included actor Woody Allen, and visited several of his homes. Epstein would also fund two of Ito’s personal businesses, providing $250,000 to a company set up to commercialize technology created at the school and contributing $1 million to a $9 million private equity fund managed by Ito.
The MIT report said Ito claimed “Epstein’s investments were being held in escrow and he was trying to ‘eject’ Epstein’s money from these companies.”
The sexual predator also claimed in 2014 that he arranged anonymous million dollar donations to MIT from his billionaire friends Gates and hedge funder Leon Black. Gates has denied ever giving money at Epstein’s request, while Black has not commented on the allegation.
Days after Epstein’s suicide in prison in August 2019, Ito posted a mea culpa on the MIT website. “I met Epstein in 2013 at a conference through a trusted business friend and, in my fundraising efforts for the MIT Media Lab, I invited him to the lab and I ‘visited several of his residences,” Ito said in the statement. “I want you to know that in all of my interactions with Epstein, I have never been involved, never heard of him, and never seen any evidence of the horrific acts he was accused of.”
Before stepping down from his post, Ito also pledged to “raise an amount equivalent” to Epstein’s donations which he said he would give to charities supporting trafficking survivors. The Daily Beast could not immediately confirm whether he followed up.
Ito is now an advisor at the Center for Complex Interventions, which is funded by a company co-founded by Ito, the Reid Hoffman Foundation and the Sergey Brin Family Foundation. Hoffman also apologized for funneling Epstein’s money to MIT.
Still, Ito might struggle to come back. When the @TEDpartners Twitter account shared a post tagging him in January, users began sweeping up the scholar’s Epstein donations. “Give up on the pedo money laundering criminal or expect a total boycott,” one person replied. Another observer fumed, “uh…why are you promoting people associated with Epstein? Is this the future everyone wants?
And in a sign that TED understands the bad optics, the Twitter post was later deleted.