Zelenskiy presses case for more help with US hedge fund, tech titans -sources

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Lananh Nguyen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday pressed his case for financial help for his country with some of America’s best known billionaires who made their fortunes in industries ranging from finance to tech and sports.

The small number of hedge fund managers, real estate investors, philanthropists, bankers and former government officials met with Zelenskiy in New York as he laid out the need for more investment in Ukraine now, 19 months after Russian forces invaded.

The meeting was scheduled for hours after Zelenskiy addressed the United Nations Security Council about Russia’s invasion and its consequences. The meeting was organized by JPMorgan Chase, the sources said.

Billionaire investors Ken Griffin, Bill Ackman, and Blackstone Group president Jonathan Gray, who are often invited to weigh in by central bankers and policy makers on political issues, were invited to meet Zelenskiy.

Robert Kraft, chief executive of the New England Patriots football team, Henry Kissinger, a former United States Secretary of State, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, politician, philanthropist and businessman Mike Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, and real estate investor Barry Sternlicht, also joined the meeting, which was held at Ukraine’s mission to the United Nations.

The group sat around a table and listened to Zelenskiy, speaking in English and flanked by aides, make his case for investing in his country, coupled with an urgency to lend more support now, some of the attendees said.

The group of bankers who convened the meeting to discuss investment in Ukraine included JPMorgan executives Mary Callahan Erdoes, its CEO of asset and wealth management, and Vince LaPadula, its CEO of workplace.

Ukraine has tried to lock in financial support from business leaders to help rebuild the country.

Representatives for Griffin’s Citadel, and Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management and other attendees declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some of the attendees have already donated millions.

Ackman, whose great-grandfather emigrated to the United States from Ukraine, in February pledged $3.25 million to help buy more than a dozen ambulances for Ukraine, according to his college friend Whitney Tilson who leads the project to buy the vehicles. Since the start of the war, Ackman’s foundation has donated roughly $24 million to support Ukraine, a person familiar with the numbers said.

Griffin, who last week laid out a roadmap for his philanthropic giving, last year pledged to donate $3 million for scholarships to support Ukrainian students study science, technology, engineering and math.

Before the meeting in New York, the White House appealed to Congress to approve billions of additional dollars of support for Ukraine.

With the fighting heading into a second winter, American business executives and others have said that interest in the war may fall off especially as next year’s U.S. presidential election picks up steam.

Howard Buffett, whose father Warren is often considered among the world’s most successful investors, on Wednesday said he may step up his own support for the country to guard against Ukraine “fatigue.”

Fox News first reported Zelenskiy’s meeting with the investors.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Lananh Nguyen, additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Megan Davies and Grant McCool)