Selling Out Part II: Who Could It Be Now?

[Selling Out – Part I – Wrapping the Gifting]

There is no direct evidence that Burning Man has been sold, or is planned to be sold. Just a mounting pile of circumstantial evidence, and the crumbling credibility of the official stories we’ve all been told over the last few years. There has been a notable absence of activity from their newest non-profit, which is now well into its third year. We’re still waiting to see the transparency we were promised earlier in the year, and wondering why exactly transparency takes more than 6 months to achieve. That kind of suggests there are things that they don’t want to be seen, right? Things that they have to clean up or shuffle out of the way before they can show us.

The shocking story of a Burning Man director’s involvement in providing financial backing and promotional impetus to a multi-million dollar commodification camp, has been met with the usual stoney silence from BMOrg. The news would have been no surprise to them, since all the money-making camps have to be registered and permitted. They knew about it, and encouraged it. They even changed the rules to facilitate it, and had community discussions promoting the plug-n-play concept. Caravancicle seemed to have no problem finding 120 tickets for its coterie of have-popsicle-will-travel jetset clientele.

Plug-n-play is here to stay. It seems that it has been quite deliberately introduced to the Playa, over a number of years, with the backing of BMOrg’s Board of Directors. BMOrg know this is going on and are actively facilitating it, presumably for the most obvious and sensible reason: it makes their event more commercially valuable.

Here are some potential contenders who might buy Burning Man.

1. AirBnB

AirBnB recently received a major, $400 million+ investment from a consortium led by the Texas Pacific Group. This brought the startup which spun out of YCombinator into the 11 digit club, valuing it at $10 billion. AirBnB are interested in Alternative Forms of Housing. Their offices in San Francisco are decorated like some of the houses available in their network.

Right before Burning Man, BMOrg changed around their Board. Ashram Galactica founder Chris Weitz stepped down, though his wife Mercedes Martinez retained her place. Rae Richman remained on Board, but switched her Default World job. Previously, she worked for Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as their West Coast VP. Now she works for AirBnB, as head of Global Citizenship. Her brief includes volunteering, Gifting and Civic Responsibility. Burning Man director Chip Conley also switched jobs. Previously, he founded Joie De Vivre hotels, and built it up to be the world’s largest boutique hotel operator. This was bought out by John Pritzer. The Pritzker family are the main wealth behind Hyatt hotels. Chip Conley now works for AirBnB also, as head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. He also owns Fest300, which aims to be the Fortune 500 of festivals. Burning Man is in the list, so we have at least one Director of BMOrg who sees Burning Man as a festival.

Image from SK8 Camp AirBnB ironic ad

Image from SK8 Camp AirBnB ironic ad

The connection with AirBnB is even deeper than 2 of Burning Man’s 18 Directors being directly employed by them in senior, full-time positions. This year AirBnB was selling space on the Playa also. If you wanted to launch a new ironic revenue stream at Burning Man, how would you do it? You’d find the most “anti” version of what you want to do, and launch it that way. An idea so ludicrous, it must be a farce. In this case, what’s the noisiest place on the Playa? Other than being directly in front of some of the sound systems, it would have to be underneath the ramp at SK8 camp. They were selling rooms there for $15/each, which we covered in AIRBNB4BRC – SK8RGR8. Although this was doubted at the time, we have since seen comments on Facebook from people who claimed to have rented the rooms. Someone else was inspired to list space in their dome on AirBnB.

As with hotels, something that started at Burning Man as irony can rapidly, even Immediately, evolve into real commercialization.

2. LiveNation

matt goldberg kntv

Burning Man Project Director Matt Goldberg

Burning Man appointed 2 new Directors before Burning Man, without any fanfare. One of them, Matt Goldberg, used to be the CEO of Lonely Planet – backpacker travel guides. Now his day job is the Senior Vice President of Global Market Development for QVC. QVC is the Home Shopping Network. Why would Burning Man think that someone from the Home Shopping Network could help them throw their annual party, or spread Burner art around the world? Maybe because the boss of QVC is the boss of Live Nation, too.

Internet mogul Barry Diller, married to Diane von Furstenberg, bought QVC for $25 million in 1992. Diller is a regular guest at Herb Allen’s Burning Mogul in Sun Valley. He sold QVC to Comcast, who then sold it to Liberty Media. This is owned by mega-billionaire John Malone, a telecommunications guru who is a major shareholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, DirectTV, and Sirius XM. These links might seem unconnected to Burning Man, but Liberty is also the biggest shareholder in Live Nation, owning a whopping 26% stake worth more than a billion dollars. Liberty’s Chairman John Malone is also the Chairman of Live Nation. Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, and is the largest event promoter in the world. Live Nation owns a number of venues including the Fillmore, the Punch Line and 12 House of Blues.

Live Nation is getting into EDM in a big way. They bought a 50% stake in Burner Pasquale Rotella’s Insomniac, producers of the Electric Daisy Carnival. Insomniac were at Burning Man this year, their camp Wide Awake was widely described as being excellent.

Insomniac and Live Nation are facing a class action lawsuit from festival volunteers who were paid with free tickets. From magneticmag:

It alleges that “wages were illegally withheld from ‘volunteers’ of the companies’ music festivals, concerts and other events”.  The suit, which can be viewed on classaction.org, states that both Insomniac and Live Nation recruited volunteers to do the work of paid employees at on-site stores, merchandise tents, water stations, and information booths in exchange for admission to festivals, with promised time off to enjoy the show.

The suit claims that the compensation was “highly overstated and essentially worthless” as volunteers were not given any time off to view the show, and were also not given federally mandated breaks for lunch, etc.   Also, it claims that volunteers were also promised the “opportunity to learn the inner workings of a festival environment”, but were often assigned to more menial customer service positions.

3. SFX/Robert Sillerman

Robert Sillerman started the business that was bought by Clear Channel and then spun out as Live Nation, by acquiring events, packaging them up for re-sale to a bigger corporation.

In 2012 the New York Times ran a story on Sillerman, with the headline Mogul To Increase Bets On Electronic Dance Music

Sillerman2Robert F. X. Sillerman, the media executive who transformed the live music business in the 1990s by combining regional concert promoters into the nationwide powerhouse that became Live Nation, has returned to the business with the first of what he expects will be a string of investments in electronic dance music, the industry’s latest trend.

Echoing his strategy in the concert business, Mr. Sillerman is pursuing independent companies that put on dance festivals, D.J. parties and other events where the crowds might range from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. He said in an interview on Monday that his first acquisition was Disco Productions, a Louisiana company that was founded by a rave promoter, Donnie Estopinal, and puts on events throughout the country.

Mr. Sillerman, 64, said that in addition to that deal he was in negotiations with up to 50 other companies, and had tentative agreements with about 15 of them. He declined to disclose terms of the Disco Productions deal, but said that he expected his new company — which is called SFX Entertainment, reviving the name of his earlier concert business — to spend $1 billion on acquisitions within a year, and that he wanted to take it public this summer.

The plan for SFX, Mr. Sillerman said, is still being formulated but will involve using the Internet to connect fans of dance music. If his strategies from the 1990s are a guide, he might also want to deliver this aggregated audience to major advertisers and marketers.

“There’s a wave of interest in attending concerts that have less to do with the specific music and more to do with the experience attached to the music,” he said, referring to the immersive appeal of many large-scale dance events. “Our thought is that the experience of attending an individual event can be perpetuated and made better by connecting the people, not just when they’re consuming the entertainment but when they’re away from it.”

Perpetuating the experience when they’re away from the festival…sound familiar?

Sillerman’s SFX acquired popular DJ site Beatport.com, and shut down their San Francisco office in a “bloodbath“. Last year they were in a bidding war against LiveNation for Insomniac Productions, who put on Electric Daisy Carnival. Despite SFX offering $100 million, Live Nation ended up with 50% of Insomniac for $50 million. Sillerman would be looking for a similar scale event that he could buy for his $100 million, an asset of equivalent quality to Insomniac.

SFX also bought a 75% stake in ID & T. ID & T are internationally known for their massive EDM events, including Tomorrowland, Sensation, and Mysteryland. Post acquisition, SFX announced the first TomorrowWorld in Georgia and the U.S. debut of Mysteryland in Bethel Woods, the site of Woodstock ’69.

[Update 9/15/14 10:28am] See comments – reader CW has further details:

Sillerman offered $100MM for BM three and a half years ago and was shut down with a stout NO THANKS.

Another interesting note… One of the guys behind Robot Heart just sold/merged his mercenary company into XO (Formerly Black Water). He is now the CEO of XO, the largest mercenary company in the world.

[Update 9/17/14  10:58pm]

This is a Playa rumor, confirmed not to be true. Robot Heart is a non-profit. There was no booing of Diplo and Skrillex either.

Another reader has speculated that an acquisition could explain why Harley Dubois is still working there after resigning in 2008.

4. Clear Channel, Bob Pittman

pittman dhome

Pittman, L, in front of a Spider Dhome at Burning Man 2014

Pittman’s Clear Channel was giving media interviews from the Playa this year, launching a technology he is pioneering and selling in a high end Plug-n-Play camp. His inflatable Dhomes will be rented for $5-10k per week. Before being Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel, Pittman ran AOL Time Warner, Century 21 Real Estate, and MTV.

Clear Channel and Live Nation used to be the same company before splitting. Their interest in Burning Man could be similar. Like me, Pittman believes that magic has a place in business:

“Someone told me early on when you are trying to solve a problem it’s the mix of math and magic. Understanding the problem, the analytical and then you need to have the creativity, you got to have the first of a magical ideal to solve the problem and I think that is what creativity is.”

The CEO of Clear Channel, which owns 850 radio stations, told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he enjoys the event because, “One of the problems of aging if you’re a creative person is that you tend to narrow your world. It opens my eyes to possibilities.”

From the Hollywood Reporter (2013):

It’s not every day that the CEO of a leading entertainment company turns off his smartphone, puts away the iPad and flies himself to get lost in the Nevada desert for a weekend. But that’s precisely what Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman did on a recent Friday as he left his office at New York’s 75 Rockefeller Plaza and piloted his own Falcon 900 jet to Burning Man — for the 10th straight year.

“I find Burning Man to be so innovative,” he says. “One of the problems of aging if you’re a creative person is that you tend to narrow your world. It opens my eyes to possibilities.”

…Pittman’s eclectic experiences make him the right fit for Clear Channel’s diverse range of offerings, including its top priority, iHeartRadio. Since 2008, the audio service and app, which allows its more than 30 million users to listen to any Clear Channel station in the country, has seen a successful push into nonterrestrial areas at a time when traditional radio is being threatened by the likes of Pandora, Spotify and iTunes.

Burning Man has had radio stations for more than 20 years, set up by former USAF intelligence officer and BMOrg director of propaganda Stuart Mangrum. This year, BMOrg announced that they had partnered with Clear Channel’s “top priority”, iHeartRadio.

5. Elon Musk

Elon MuskElon has made no secret of his love for Burning Man. Rather, he’s shouting it from the rooftops. In response to Beavis and Butthead founder Mike Judge’s new show Silicon Valley, Elon said Judge should go to Burning Man before he judged: Burning Man IS Silicon Valley.

Recently Elon announced that he will be building Tesla’s Gigafactory at the World’s Largest Industrial Park in Reno/Sparks. This may create jobs in the area for Burners with fabrication and design skills, or lower-level factory workers. Nevada allows Lithium mining, which will be useful for the battery factory.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

The tax incentive package assembled by Gov. Brian Sandoval to woo Tesla’s gigafactory is unprecedented in size and scope for the state of Nevada and is one of the largest in the country.

The overall value to Tesla is estimated to be $1.25 billion over 20 years — a figure that is more than double the $500 million package CEO Elon Musk said would be required to draw the company.

If the deal is approved by the Nevada Legislature, Tesla will operate in the state essentially tax free for 10 years.

tesla-reno-gigafactory-site-1-KTNV-Channel-13In exchange, the company must invest a minimum of $3.5 billion in manufacturing equipment and real property in the state—a threshold that is much lower than the $10 billion state officials expect the company to invest in Nevada over the next two decades.

The economic development officials who assembled the tax incentive package argue the massive size of the abatement is justified by the scope of the gigafactory project, which is one of the largest economic development deals in the country.

“What this can do for the region… It will allow every under employed person to reach full employment,” said Sandoval’s economic development director Steve Hill. “It will lift up everyone in the region. Property values will go up. The prosperity of the region will be materially changed.”

rendering-of-tesla-battery-gigafactory-outside-reno-nevada-sep-2014_100479365_mEconomic development officials anticipate the gigafactory—a three-story behemoth with more than 5 million square feet of manufacturing space—will generate a $100 billion economic impact over 20 years.

“To put that into perspective, that is more than 3 percent of the state’s GDP. It is more than 20 percent of the region’s economic output,” Hill said.

The factory would employ 6,500 people with an average wage about $25 an hour. Indirect jobs created could reach 22,000—a number equivalent to 2 percent of the state’s entire work force and 11 percent of the region’s workforce.

But the tax breaks the company would receive with the Legislature’s blessing are also staggering. The total package is 13 times larger than the state’s previous record-breaking $89 million for Apple.

According to USA Today, Elon’s partner in the deal also owns the famous Mustang Ranch brothel.

there are two ways to look at Lance Gilman of Storey County, Nev., the businessman whose industrial center is set to house Tesla’s massive Gigafactory.

To some, he is a major player when it comes to economic development in Nevada, a state that is still clawing its way out of a recession. To others, Gilman is also seen as a flesh peddler — he’s owner of the famous Mustang Ranch brothel, legally operated in Storey County just east of Reno.

Gilman is the principal and director of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, billed as the largest industrial park in the world. As Storey County Manager Pat Whitten put it, Gilman is “the lead economic engine for Northern Nevada.”

Besides Tesla, he’s lured major companies to his park, which has become a cash cow of tiny Storey County. The park is located just outside the county limits of the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area and includes companies such as Kal-Kan, Wal-Mart, Dell Computers and Toys R Us. The industrial park is next to coast-to-coast interstate highway and rail systems, so it sells itself. Yet Gilman closes the deals.

He is also an integral part of the negotiations to bring Tesla Motors’ $5 billion Gigifactory project to the industrial park he represents.

Meanwhile, Gilman got into the brothel business about a decade ago with his Wild Horse Canyon Ranch brothel. He later bought the Mustang Ranch, which was previously owned by the notorious Joe Conforte — who escaped to Brazil to avoid federal prosecution for tax evasion.

When the Mustang re-opened under Gilman’s ownership in 2007, Conforte appeared via live video feed at a grand opening celebration to give a few words and pass the mantle off to Gilman.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Nevada Legislature in 2011 it was time to ban legal prostitution in Nevada, he did not mention Gilman by name, but it was apparent who he was speaking about.

Owning Burning Man seems like a distraction for a guy who creates Hyperloops in his spare time. Elon already has the world’s attention. Maybe he wants to Burn in space.

6. Black Rock’s Childs

A contender from the name alone. BlackRock was founded in 1988 as a division of BlackStone, before Burning Man went out to the BlackRock Desert, but just after the event had started.  In 1992, after Burning Man had relocated to the Black Rock Desert, it changed its name from Blackstone Financial Management to BlackRock. It is now the world’s largest asset manager, and has been called “the most influential financial institution in the world”. From The Economist, the Monolith and the Markets:

BlackRock…is the world’s biggest investor. Founded in 1988, it has $4.1 trillion in assets under management, making it bigger than any bank, insurance company, government fund or rival asset-management firm. It single-handedly manages almost as much money as all the world’s private-equity and hedge funds. Though its holdings are mostly equities—it is the biggest shareholder in half of the world’s 30 largest companies—it also holds bonds, commodities, hedge funds, property and just about anything anyone would ever want to invest in 

I433923-2-1_david-de-rothschild-2

Billionaire Burner David de Rothschild

With $4.59 trillion under management, $100 million or so for Burning Man would be nothing to them. Black Rock and Black Stone are gigantic investment companies that have been connected to the trillionaire Rockefellers and Rothschilds. Both families have members who attend Burning Man and hang out with the Founders at First Camp. Burning Man Project Director Rae Richman was working for them, before moving to AirBnB. The Rockefellers have recently been co-investing alongside TPG, who just put about half a billion into AirBnB. Burning Man Founder Michael Mikel got his Silicon Valley start working for a Rockefeller company, Fairchild Semiconductor.

I met one of the Rockefellers last year at a charity event, where we shared a table with BMOrg workers who were all very chummy with him. I also previously met Justin Rockefeller, also a Burner. David de Rothschild “Plastic Jesus” is proud to tell the press about his Burning Man visits.

If you owned half of the world’s biggest companies, many of which employ Burners in key roles, why wouldn’t you want to own the coolest thing in the world too?

The two mighty families recently joined forces:

“Rothschild  “is to buy a 37 per cent stake in the Rockefeller’s wealth advisory and asset management group for an undisclosed sum, giving Lord Rothschild’s London-listed trust a much sought-after foothold in the US.”

The Financial Times states that the transnational, transatlantic union “brings together David Rockefeller, 96, and Lord Rothschild, 76 – two family patriarchs whose personal relationship spans five decades.”

“The Rockefeller group traces its roots back to 1882 when John D. Rockefeller established one of the world’s first family offices dedicated to investing his wealth. It has since developed into a provider of wealth and asset management services to other families, foundations and institutions. It is majority-owned by the 19th century oil magnate’s family and has $34bn of assets under administration.”

The founder of Blackstone, which spawned BlackRock, is also the Chairman of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission, and a former member of the same Skull and Bones secret society that Presidents George Bush Sr and Jr, and Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate John Kerry were part of. From publicintelligence.net

Peter G. Peterson, the cofounder of the Blackstone Group, is the Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York prior to Timothy Geithner. 6  He is also the founder and chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a globalist think tank that is financially supported by David Rockefeller and Maurice Greenberg’s Starr Foundation. 7  C. Fred Bergsten, the Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, is a North American Steering Committee member of the Trilateral Commission; David Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in New York is also a Trilateral commission member.8  Both Peter G. Peterson9and Timothy Geithner10 are former Trilateral Commission members.  James Dimon, Timothy Geithner, and Stephen A. Schwarzman are all members of the Council on Foreign Relations.  James Dimon is also a Class A director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Mr. Schwarzman was a also member of the Skull and Bones society at Yale University.111213

From Wikipedia:

Members of the Rockefeller family into the fourth generation (especially the prominent banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller, who is the present family patriarch) have been heavily involved in international politics, and have donated money to, established or been involved in the following major international institutions:

The Rockefeller and Rothschild families represent the top of the pyramid of the Illuminati. If the Illuminati were just a conspiracy theory, then someone should’ve told George Washington. In 1798 he said:

“It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.”

They were founded in 1776, as a response from old European banking families to the American Declaration of Independence. Their goal is a New World Order. The United Nations, which spun out of Bohemian Grove and the Presidio military base, is one of their instruments for achieving that goal.

Illuminati have had a strong interest in the occult Ancient Mysteries that Burning Man is based on, for centuries. The black magick side of the event – the world’s largest Pagan ritual – could be very attractive to these people.

the Rothschild Opus One winery in Napa looks a little like the BRC layout. Mrs Rothschild recently passed away there, on the night of the big earthquake

the Rothschild-owned Opus One winery in Napa is shaped like the Freemasons Square and Compass symbol. It also looks a little like the BRC layout. Mrs Rothschild recently passed away there, just before the big earthquake hit

The financial potential of Burning Man would be of no interest to them, but the network of thought leaders “washing their own brains” in the Cult of Burning Man could be very useful indeed. Burning Man would be a toy for someone in these families, like purchasing a painting or a classic car. The database of increasingly detailed profiles on Burners could be demographic gold, many of the world’s movers and shakers and creators in one place at once time. Ready to be influenced, by whatever messaging the New World Order requires them to receive.

the man pentagram curt

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7. Google

Google have made no secret of their deep ties to Burning Man. They were the first company to commercially exploit the event, when they used the Burning Man logo to advertise their search engine shortly after they launched, in 1998. They commercially exploited it again, prototyping their Google Maps and Glass technologies on the Playa. Their YouTube division sells advertising on videos filmed at Burning Man, so Google are actively monetizing Burning Man every second.

google doodleSome of the technology behind Google came via Interval Research, a thinktank in Palo Alto funded by Paul Allen, the guy who started Microsoft with Bill Gates. In 1994, Burning Man Project Director Leo Villareal was an intern there, when he first went to Burning Man – at the time, being promoted as the physical manifestation of cyberspace.

Google spun out of Stanford, and was initially financed by the CTO of Sun Microsystems – a hardware and software company  which also spun out of Stanford (and is now part of Oracle). Stanford Professor Fred Turner has written about the way Silicon Valley’s culture has been shaped by the military, as well as how Google’s culture has been shaped by Burning Man. He has hailed Burning Man as a new frontier for Cultural Creatives, and a model that corporations should follow for cross-disciplinary collaboration in content farms. So there is an academic justification for Google and Burning Man being linked. Recently, Google founder Larry Page said he wished he had more “free experimentation zones” like Burning Man, where they could trial new technologies without having to release it everywhere at once. Some of the art cars are now apparently self-driving.

Larry Harvey has compared Burning Man’s culture of Gifting and Civic Responsibility, with Google’s policy of giving employees 20% of their time to work on pet projects – something that seems custom made for Burning Man art projects.

The Google founders recently threw their own camping event, an elite conference in Sicily called The Camp. They could have bought Burning Man at any time in the last 10 years. Maybe they did…

8. Facebook.

Facebook's "Illuminati" Hoodie

Facebook’s “Illuminati” Hoodie

We know that Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, and the Winklevoss twins are all Burners, as are many other Facebook employees. Zuckerberg helicoptered in for 24 hours and handed out grilled cheese sandwiches. Billionaire Burner Moskovitz penned a blog post in defense of the 1%-ers at Burning Man. From Medium:

I’m sure many of you have come across the ongoing debate that is heating up right now around the idea of wealthy individuals paying to have a provided experience at Burning Man. There have been some great write-ups on the topic on both sides, but I wanted to offer my personal experience since I haven’t seen much representation yet by “the 1%” themselves. Last week was my 5th year on the playa, and my feelings on the subject have radically changed as my relationship with the festival and the community has deepened. I’ve gone from feeling like an outsider to becoming a judgmental veteran and back again, more than a few times (sometimes in the same week). Nearly every day, I am reminded of the feeling that I’m on the wrong side of a never-ending class war that sadly divides us, but I’ve gained a lot of perspective and acceptance thanks to specific experiences related to being a burner. And I’m still learning, no matter how many times I think I’ve reached the end

Billionaire Burner Moskovitz at Burning Man 2013. He is to the left, clinging on to the structure with his shirt off

Billionaire Burner Moskovitz at Burning Man 2013. I think that’s him to the left, clinging on to the structure with his shirt off

He thinks the influx of VCs to the event is going to help save the world:

It includes a reference to Mark Zuckerberg “helicoptering in to serve grilled cheeses.” I’ll go ahead and confirm the rumor, since it’s clearly out there now anyway. The implication in the article is that he paid into a turnkey experience, but I know he was a guest in the camp I built and no money changed hands. Along with its other inhabitants, he helped pitch his own tent. I wanted him to experience the city and to experience gifting because I thought it would make him grow as a person and the world better off as a result; I believe that’s exactly what happened, however marginally (he was already a pretty great person). I’ve seen this occur countless times. Burning Man is a direct contributor to Cari’s and my decision to start Good Ventures, and to my Asana co-founder Justin’s realization that all the companies in the world are really part of One Project. I know many of the entrepreneur invaders and, without exception, they come back from their first year with a decreased interest in zero-sum competition and a deep appreciation of the fully connected and mutually supportive community. When I hear about anyone going for the first time, my immediate thought is “that is so great for them” and when they are a person who has pooled power or capital around them, it is usually followed by “that is so great for the world.”

Moskovitz and the Winklevi settled their beefs on the Playa, with hugs.

Tyler Winklevoss at Burning Man

Tyler Winklevoss at Burning Man

In spite of our tangled history I had never actually met them,” he wrote on a blog. “We only communicated through lawyers. These guys are among the only people on earth I might describe as real antagonists in my life or even enemies, but on playa my first instinct was that I quite obviously needed to introduce myself and start with hugs.

“They had just arrived so I wasn’t sure how they’d react, but they were very gracious at the time and I knew they’d understand more deeply by the time they left.

“Almost immediately when I got back, I had a Facebook friend request from Tyler and we started a thread mutually extolling the virtues of the festival. In no uncertain terms, he described a spiritual experience.”

He added: “I had created all kinds of dark fantasies about how meeting them would go (Tyler assures me it would have been cordial regardless,) but on playa it was laughably clear. There, we were all part of the same community. We were always part of the same community.”

Burning Man could be an amusing plaything for these Billionaire Burners, but they already own the coolest thing in the world. They know where all the parties are, and who’s on the guest list.  When you have a billion Likes, what do you need a bunch of trippers in the desert for?

9. Jim Tananbaum/Foresight Capital

jim-tananbaumforesite-capital-304xx283-424-23-0 (1)Burning Man’s latest director and Commodity Camping Caravancicler. Jim’s investment company is flush with cash, having recently raised $400 million for his latest healthcare fund. He’s looking for deals to do. Maybe he’s doing this one. He’s definitely got blood on his hands in terms of looking at the Playa as a thing that can be monetized. Defenders of his behavior online are few, but one comment made was that he is so rich, that any profit he could make from Burning Man is insignificant. Personally, even if that were true, I don’t think that’s much of a justification for what happened at his commodification camp.

A deal-maker like “JT” might see the potential in scrubbing BMOrg up into a real company, and then selling it back to the Burners who created it via an IPO.

He also could have been brought in as part of a broader deal team. He seems like the kind of guy you send into a company to get a big deal done…if you’re a pro. Or someone you want on your side advising you, if you’re not.

Another Burning Man Project Director, Jennifer Raiser, also has a healthcare background:

Previously, Jennifer was CEO of Raiser Senior Services, a full-service provider of luxury retirement in the Bay Area, combining health care, dining, and long-term care. She is the co-author of Designing Retirement Communities for the Future, John Wiley and Sons. Her previous experience includes marketing with Procter and Gamble and BBDO/Omnicom Advertising, and management consulting with Fortune 500 corporations.

I still can see no real connection between health care, senior care, and Burning Man.

10. Intelligence

For a really interesting look at the role Intelligence has played in the Arts, I highly recommend Miles Mathis’ short essay “From Theosophy to the Beat Generation – or How Even the Occult Was Disguised”.

The UK’s Independent newspaper in 1995 said Modern Art Was A CIA Weapon:

Because of the Cultural Cold War and The Mighty Wurlitzer, Intelligence is always a possibility. They have plenty of money. Billionaire Burner Jeff Bezos just did a $600 million deal with the CIA. The Burners at the helm of Facebook and Google have made millions of dollars from deals with the NSA. Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s kids are Burners, that was a CIA project before it was even a company. There are all manner of Alphabet Agencies out there on the Playa already. They already have all the data, all kinds of satellite and thermal imagery and technology that can see through walls. Burning Man right now fuels big budgets for the BLM and local cops, who can have shiny new trucks and all the latest hardware. Why mess with something that’s working? The Man is all over Burning Man.

burning_man_girls_robert_scales

something for everyone, honey…

Intelligence don’t need to buy Burning Man, unless there is some strategic value for them in being able to influence its operations more directly. Like, disseminating propaganda to Burners who have washed their own brains, and taken hallucinogenic drugs to improve their suggestibility. Another possibility would be the “honey trap”, a classic intelligence technique that would be ridiculously easy to pull off at Burning Man. Basically, you meet a hot girl and think she’s interested in you. Really, she’s a spy, who may try to rob you, set you up, blackmail you, or introduce you to others who will then do that. This “oldest trick in the book” is most likely why Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London right now. Intelligence could use Burning Man to inject people into social groups for the purposes of espionage, influence, addiction, or extortion. Another use could be detecting and then eliminating rival cartels. They know who the Burners are from social networks and phone metadata, it would be an easy next step to work out who is supplying the drugs to them. Yet we never hear about any big busts…


Perhaps Burning Man is not for sale, and this is all just Idol speculation. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the massive investment in lawyers and accountants, the complex corporate structure, the promotion of gentrification, and Burning Man’s board changes not being announced. Maybe it’s just pure coincidence that they put a guy from QVC on, and the same company that owns QVC owns Live Nation. Maybe it’s just coincidence that the Rockefeller employee who was on the Board shifted to AirBnB, and so did one of the other Burning Man Directors, and then AirBnB had Burning Man listings this year. Maybe it’s all One Big Farce. An ironic prank, with Burners as the victims.

It does not change the FACT that the Founders are selling up – if not to someone else, then at the very least to themselves, via the non-profit which will buy Burning Man’s intangible assets back from Decommodification LLC in a couple years. They’re bringing in new people and changing the way the event is run, taking it in a new strategic direction of some sort. The Festival is evolving, and the event in the desert is looking less significant to the organization’s future aspirations. This is the big retirement package they’ve made for themselves, the nest egg they’ve been able to create from 30 years of building Black Rock City. What of the workers, though? DPW and the Sherpas and the tens of thousands of volunteers? Where is the pension plan for them? Are they planned to be part of the “century of legacy?”

We will look at this in Part III.

53 comments on “Selling Out Part II: Who Could It Be Now?

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  11. The only thing that is going to stop this festival of hypocrisy (and it should be stopped) is to sabotage the porta-potties so no service contractor will touch the event. BMorg has lost several contracts in the past, and that was when Burners were still playing nice.

    There have been many reports of porta-potty vandalism this year and I wouldn’t doubt that much of that was from a liberation front hell-bent on ending this nightmare of a festival once and for all.

    Like

    • I don’t think vandalism is the answer. And messing with the porta-potties is just ridiculous. There is no need to literally be a shit stirrer. Of all the protest ideas I’ve heard so far, from this to sign stealing to camp invasion to tire slashing, the one that seems like it would be most effective is #occupyfirstcamp. That is an easy location for everyone to direct their protests. Towards BMOrg, not towards workers or each other.

      Like

    • Really? why destroy the property of the one vendor who we all need. Those people should get our respect and support, not vandalism. Go vandalize First Camp if you must destroy something. Or, hey, here’s an idea! Burn the Man.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We all need porta potties? How radically self-reliant can you be if you can’t take care of your own shit, literally? The porta potties are a crutch and a barrier to actual self-reliance, and the greatest cause of dependance on the Org.

        Oh, but without porta potties we can’t have Burning Man. Yep. That’s the idea.

        Some person or group was removing the seat lids and likely throwing them in. I’d call them the Playa Liberation Front – freedom fighters trying to liberate the playa from Burning Man itself. You’d call the terrorists.

        Like

  12. This does not feel like a well written story. Just a lot of speculations. Mainly just pointing out some of the most well known people that go to BM. Yes they have money and I do think plug and play camps are wrong… That said if you earned the money to do that then you are being radically self reliant. As long as money does not change hands at BM. If a hippie buys drugs and gear before BM it is not much different then someone buying a pre-made camp and food. Just means they skip the line at walmart. Just seems like a LOT of speculation and “We have since seen comments on Facebook from people who claimed to have rented the rooms” What you read on FB MUST be true. Just people being upset that they built a really awesome thing, and now it is known in the mainstream that it is a really awesome thing. Burners jobs are to educate newbies so we have less douches and more awesome people. Also feel like that is the roll of the regionals now.

    Like

    • Is it really the writing you have a problem with, or is it that you don’t like the message? If the writing, please tell me which part of the story was difficult for you to understand.

      The AirBnB links were there, and were seen by many people. SK8 camp representatives came to this group to acknowledge the existence of this “ironic” listing. The AirBnB listing for this is still there if you want to see for yourself: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3753549

      Your statement “what you read on FB MUST be true” is inaccurate. Perhaps you were being ironic 🙂 Just because something is on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s true. But if information we already have is further confirmed by eyewitness accounts, that doesn’t make it LESS true. That doesn’t make any sense! An eyewitness account on Facebook is no more or less meaningful than one provided in these comments. Part of distinguishing between truth and propaganda is considering the motivation (and affiliations) of the speaker.

      Like

  13. Thanks for this. You lost me at Illuminati, but everything else you have put forth makes sense. Two things popped into my mind: 1. Remember that a couple of years ago Larry said that he wanted Burning Man to end with him, and the legacy continue as regionals? Then something happened, or someone advised him, and he turned a 180 degree about face, saying that he wanted the NV event to continue forever. Is that about the time when they started talking non-profit transitioning? And also, remember when Harley quit? Something enticed her to come back… I wish I could pinpoint these instances of about face on a timeline. They could be connected to the beginnings of the move towards what you are talking about here. Sounds like it could be that someone said, “End it? Are you crazy? You guys are sitting on a goldmine and you need to start prepping it for a sale. You have spent your lives building this thing, and now you are looking at having a future which includes millions of dollars for the rest of your lives. How can you turn your back on that kind of money?”

    Like

    • See CW’s comments, I believe him to be a credible source – Sillerman offered them $100m. To turn it down, they must have had a pretty strong belief that they could get more. Even if Harley didn’t want $16 million+ for herself, would she really destroy the other 5 so that no-one got anything? Easier to just come back, take the money, and keep everyone happy.

      Maybe money is not a factor in their decision making; but if that were true, why spend more on accountants than art?

      As for the Illuminati, they are very real. Even George Washington acknowledged their existence and influence. In 1798 he said:

      “It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.”

      For a nice, concise overview of the history of this group see: http://rense.com/general77/histor.htm
      it is by no means complete, and he glosses over some things that I would describe differently, but it is a quick read and historically accurate.

      Like

  14. Our participation is de facto cooperation with the corporation that exploits that participation – the Org, and now many other companies. If you’re personally okay with that, fine. Buy the ticket, take the kiddie roller-coaster ride that is Burning Man post shark-jump. Hand over your money, blood, sweat and tears and in the end you might get a DPW Tshirt to impress your so-called friends.

    Even pointing out the corruption adds value to the company that so gleefully exploits you. Helping to make BM better, really? Who profits from that effort? Not you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Some would call you a conspiracy theorist, other might call you a trouble maker, I saw someone else call you jealous… I will call you a person who simply sees the writing on the wall and is calling it like you see it.

    That list of possible buyers is bone chilling. These are the companies that make billions of Dollars in profit off of others efforts and good work. Companies that take their HUGE slice of the pie for simply being a middle man. Companies like Ticketmaster and Livenation that charge 20%-70% as fees for buying a ticket to concert. They don’t play a note of music or even attend the shows but they get as big (or bigger) slice of the pie than the performers for being the tool booth operator. These are the same scum who set tickets aside before the on sale date so they can scalp them the next week.

    These companies have no problem making money while others do all of the work. And if/when they buy BM it will be no different.

    It is the 50,000-55,000 good souls who understand and love the true concept of BM who makes it what it is. The good people who come out for the for the experience alone (with no hopes of profit) and they happily volunteer to make BM what is is.

    It is the 50-100 carpet baggers who makes all of the money from other peoples efforts. It is the promoters of plug and play who are selling 1 week BM “time hsares” for $13,000 so the 1%ers can come out and parasite off of the 50,000-55,000 peoples efforts. These 1%ers fly into to BM just like they fly in for Mardi Gras, The Super Bowl, NYE Times Square, NASCAR races, etc etc… They have no under standing of what BM is really all about. They would no more give without expecting anything in return than they would volunteer to help wash dishes or help clean up a camp on Monday.

    It is sad to state the obvious, BM’s best days are behind us.

    It is time to organize another festival for people who want to attend a BM ype of gathering circa 1993.

    I would suggest that you burnersxxx begin setting this up. Maybe put in place a “Constitution” that will head off at the pass the greedy that are sure to flock to a successful new gathering. Maybe put in place a hand off of the duties of who runs it. Maybe do org term limits. Put is place blocks to the greed that has consumed BM. Make sure the the new gathering will always be what BM was intended to be.

    Put in place controls to help make sure the new gathering will never be attractive to the greedy middle men/women whose main goal in life is to squeeze every drop of profit out of everything no matter the damage, they love to squeeze every non-sleeping moment of their worker’s lives, their main goal in life is to make every last cent they can no matter what the activity. They look at BM and all they see is $$$$$$ $$$$$$ $$$$$$.

    Put in place safeguards to make sure the new gathering will always be what BM used to be, what it was intended to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thanks Sean. I’ve been calling it like I see it since I started this blog, and I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong. The thing about the name-callers is they never offer facts and figures, or provide any evidence or references to dispute ours. They just try to distract the readers by attacking the person, not the argument.

      As for organizing new festivals, if there are enough Burners who care, it could be done. I can’t do it single-handedly though, others would have to step up to fight for the preservation of Burner culture.

      We have stated to tentatively explore this idea in this series of posts:

      https://burners.me/2014/08/27/what-dreams-may-come-part-i/
      https://burners.me/2014/08/29/what-dreams-may-come-part-ii-the-introduction/

      Like

      • “The thing about the name-callers is they never offer facts and figures, or provide any evidence or references to dispute ours. They just try to distract the readers by attacking the person, not the argument.”

        Wait

        Are we talking Burning Man, or the mainstream media and the politics and government of the USA?

        Like

        • I’m talking about people attacking this site and calling Burners.Me names (online trolls). It’s very interesting, isn’t it, the way BMOrg act like the government. They even have a Minister of Propaganda.

          Like

    • and another sad thing is that they come to burning man to feel enlightened and renewed, so therefore better about the fact that in the default world they ” squeeze every drop of profit out of everything no matter the damage, they love to squeeze every non-sleeping moment of their worker’s lives, their main goal in life is to make every last cent they can no matter what the activity.”

      Like

        • well, like I’ve been saying for a while, the day they get home and start acting and conducting their businesses/policy making in a more egalitarian and less robber-baron style, I’ll believe it was truly transformational. All I’ve ever heard is that they just get validation that what they are already doing is helping the world in some way. Cough*bullshit*cough

          Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, we camped across the street from this guy in 2009, gave him rides on our art car and made use of his misting tent often. He was incredibly nice and seemingly down to earth when I talked to him, and said how blown away he was by BM in general. You never know, I guess. Here’s a pic of him dancing:

          [snip]

          Didn’t know he was the guy behind the french toast thing, which I found ridiculous. Well, the queuing up is ridiculous for starters, ain’t nothing that good to wait in line for at BM except for the fucking gate, ha. And then the bit about him flying in the challah. Man.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I just realized, it’s not cool to post pictures of people on the playa, I know I’d be annoyed. So, as much as this guy seems suspect, can you remove the image in my previous comment? Thanks.

            Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow I’ve always said the money behind bm is not stopable and seems to caught the eye of the foremost peeps who herd money projects like wranglers herding cattle to market. As a long time burner and artist I find myself asking whY I hurt n struggle in my own life to bring my art, magik (spelled as Allister Crowley spells it) and creativity w camps and many art cars barely able to get myself there and back to share all I can muster yet the place oozes w millionaires, billionaires and even trillionairs can I get some sponsorship to do what I really want to do and not struggle in depths of exhaustion and financial deprevity so a wandering burner billionaire can just hop on my ride.. Jesus if bm.org is really hosting this kind of financial wealth then start supporting the people who are bringing the art if your gonna sell our art. The reason why I come to bm, I return to share the deep rooted drive n love w like artists and folks not tourists. We build our art and camps often from the left overs of previous years and our budgets usually are none just our scraped together earnings and harvested materials to bring the magik back each year. Wow not sure I would know what to do w myself if I ever had a real budget….would take all the fun n soul out of the experience. Maybe next year wewill all be hired to build giant insomniacs raver art and man water stations for our tickets..

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Can you do an article that clearly and simply shows the organizational relationship of the various corporations/LLC’s/entities of Burning Man, and give a brief profile the 19 or whatever Board of Directors of the Burning Man Project or whatever that is? That’d be awesome!

    Like

  18. There’s nothing of substance here, though. Parts I and II are speculative and fraught with misleading information. That isn’t truthful, Zos. And it’s a form of manipulation of your readers.

    Like

    • Not in the slightest. I quite clearly indicate that this is speculation. It is deeper than random, wild, baseless speculation. It is based on careful analysis and a lot of thought. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong. So far a lot of my analysis-based speculation has turned out to be correct.
      I think these posts are informing the readers. In what way do you think this is manipulating anyone? What information are you saying is misleading? I take it you think there is absolutely no chance that Burning Man is for sale?

      Liked by 1 person

      • What are these posts informing readers of and what are you informing them with? You are misleading people, Zos.

        I looked at your accounting on Part I and as I posted there, you’re missing key figures. The bases for your arguments are faulty.

        I know for a fact that Burning Man is not for sale, and this idea does not come up as a topic of conversation among the leadership. Burning Man is the life’s work for the people who lead the organization. Do you know that the Burning Man organization is being planned to exist for 100 years? To be a legacy for future generations? To be in service to spreading the culture described by what you glibly call “the tin principles”?

        If there were some interest in monetizing the event further, don’t you think that there would have been sponsorships by now? That there would have been business deals pimping out the Burning Man “brand”? That there would be food vending at the event? That money from ice and coffee would be kept as profit, rather than donated?

        To imagine that there is even an iota of possibility of the event being sold is to completely misunderstand the direction of the Burning Man organization and the intent of the people who work for it. The event is the golden egg. The event is the culture generator. As you so aptly pointed out, why would the org spend a lot of money on accountants and attorneys to start the non-profit? Do you think that maybe it’s because they’re building something that is complex, hasn’t been done before, and that they want to build it to last?

        If the non-profit sold the event, the non-profit would cease to have validity in the world by way of violating its own founding principles. The entity could not exist if it were in violation of its own mission.

        Like

        • We’ve looked at the deception of “all ice sales get donated” in this: https://burners.me/2014/01/06/iceicebaby/

          If you want our more detailed financial analysis, see here: https://burners.me/2014/06/09/profit-grows-donations-shrink-2013-afterburn-analysis/

          Can you please reveal to us what exactly is your relationship with BMOrg’s leadership, that you are always talking about the business with all of them? Do you work for them? Are you talking about people like Will Chase and Bear Kittay, or do the Founders and 18 Directors all have intimate conversations with you about the event?

          As for monetizing the event further, every time they throw it now, they add something new to the mix to sell. This year it was gasoline, merchandise, vehicle passes, and AirBnB listings. Other recently added revenue streams, like Plug-n-Play, seem to have been accelerated. I’ve given you an example of the Burning Man logo being used to promote a sponsor’s business: Google.

          If their only concern is making the event last and preserving its integrity, why the lack of transparency? Why all the new revenue streams? Why the influx of P-n-P camps? Why pick these particular new directors? Why not have Burners represented on the Board? There’s not even a sub-committee dedicated to us.

          I am not “imagining an iota of possibility of the event being sold”. That is beyond the realm of possibility now, it’s a done deal. Perhaps in all your conversations with the “leadership” they failed to mention that they already sold it, on January 1 2014: http://blog.burningman.com/2014/03/news/burning-man-transitions-to-non-profit-organization/

          Liked by 1 person

        • “The entity could not exist if it were in violation of its own mission.”
          Oh boy, that one had me on the floor I was laughing so hard. The entity is existing right now in violation of it’s own mission. And doing quite well, thank you.

          “That there would have been business deals pimping out the Burning Man “brand”?”
          How about a deal with a major luxury car company to feature BMan in it’s advertisements? Or Vogue? Or Taco Bell? Or a movie that was supposed to show light on some inconsistencies within the org but turned out to be a handjob for the Man after the Org makes a deal to license it and get a percentage of the profits… the list goes on…

          Liked by 1 person

        • “Do you know that the Burning Man organization is being planned to exist for 100 years? ” – by a company that hasn’t even been able to do tickets right on a routine basis, by a company whose board who tells you we can’t tell you what next because we are creating things as we go along…. freaking joke. The event is no longer a culture generator unless the culture they are trying to create is to resemble that of the one already in the world. Commodification of the average man’s/participants labors, special treatment of the ruling class. Plenty of non-profits that want to change things in the world have been done before, the hubris in the belief that they are so different without an examination of what they community is saying in regards to how they feel they are being treated is hubris of the highest degree.

          Like

  19. Great article.

    FYI…

    Sillerman offered $100MM for BM three and a half years ago and was shut down with a stout NO THANKS.

    Another interesting note… One of the guys behind Robot Heart just sold/merged his mercenary company into XO (Formerly Black Water). He is now the CEO of XO, the largest mercenary company in the world.

    Check it out.

    Hope you are all good.

    CW

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Wow. This is incredibly creative writing. You’ve clearly spent a lot of time thinking this through. You are right, however. Your writing is, indeed, just idle speculation. Or as you like to call it, “idol speculation”.

    Your conjectures are conspiracy theories based on connecting dots where there are no shreds of reality.

    “There is no direct evidence…” No DIRECT evidence? There is NO evidence. Zero.

    Sincere questions: What are you really after with this blog? What is your interest? Do you have a purpose with it?

    Like

  21. Pingback: Selling Out Part I – Wrapping The Gifting | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

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