Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CES Show and After Party

The great thing is a bus with Google-funded Wi-Fi and Chromebook laptops on the seat backs takes you over to the arena:

"From vibrating pillowcases to smart pajama belts, sleep tech is flooding the market" by Megan Thielking, STAT


At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, fake beds abound.

Companies from across the globe are clamoring to give attendees a chance to kick off their shoes and test out the latest in sleep technology. It’s hard to get too cozy with thousands of tech fanatics milling around the exhibit floor — but manufacturers are doing their darndest.

They’re showcasing snooze-inducing headphones and smart pillowcases, beds with built-in foot warmers, and belts that track every toss and turn. There are smart alarm clocks designed to make it as pleasant as possible to drag yourself out of bed on a Monday morning. There’s even an app that can record your snoringand everything you say in your sleep.

Well, if that isn't enough to keep you awake at night.

All of this is supposed to make you sleep better.

But it’s not clear what you’re supposed to do with all the data that these products generate.

I'm sure some agency or firm will find a u$e.

“There’s an inherent problem because the consumer world has come up with all these ways to monitor your body signals, but the clinical world didn’t come up with a way to answer all the questions it brings about,’’ said Michael Breus, a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.

Here’s a look at the gadgets hitting the sleep-tech market — and the evidence behind them:

Buckle in before bed?

Sleep trackers are growing more high-tech. Take 2breathe, a smart device that you’re supposed to strap around your waist before bed. The $180 device can sense your breathing and play tones to help you fall asleep, and it shuts off automatically when it senses you’re snoozing. It’s tied to an app that fills you in bright and early every morning on how you slept.

Or, at least, it shoves a bunch of data points at you.

“You got 18 percent REM sleep and 24 percent light sleep. So what?’’ said Breus, who also appears regularly as a sleep expert on “The Dr. Oz Show.’’

Clinicians in sleep medicine are asking the same question.

“Such devices may have a role in giving us some idea about how the night’s sleep was, but I am not sure if consumers can directly interpret the results,’’ said Dr. Gholam Motamedi, a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center who has studied sleep medicine.

There is limited evidence that wearable trackers can encourage users to get more sleep each night. One recent study of 565 drug company employees who used activity trackers for a year found that while users didn’t get more physical activity, they were sleeping an average of 30 minutes longer each night by the end of the year.

“People didn’t realize how little they were sleeping, and it wasn’t until it was in front of them and aggregated that they realized,’’ said Laura Pugliese, deputy director of innovation research at the New York-based Healthcare Innovation & Technology Lab and one of the study’s authors....

That's when I rolled back over.


Related: "Fitbit, whose devices encourage people to walk 10,000 steps each day, now wants to put them to sleep as well. The company said data collected by the millions of Fitbit trackers in use show that people are averaging less than seven hours of sleep a night, the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the Z’s people do get aren’t necessarily the right kind of sleep. So Fitbit will offer deeper sleep tracking on some of its devices."

You know, you harping on the issue isn't going to help me fall asleep.

If you do happen to drag yourself out of the sack....

"Driverless cars get trade show treatment in Las Vegas" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 04, 2017

LAS VEGAS — At one point, as the car began turning right on a preprogrammed route, a group of pedestrians started crossing, directly in the path of the vehicle. A human driver would halt his right turn, wait for the pedestrians to cross, and perhaps sigh with annoyance. The Ioniq did exactly the same, only with no complaints.

Why does he hate humans?

Related: "Two elderly women were struck and killed crossing a busy street in Sandwich on Cape Cod Monday afternoon, police said...." 

I'm glad his chauffeur didn't do that.

The car even knew when it was legal to make a right turn on a red light, which turns out to be a significant challenge. The only way to be sure is to rely on a map database that contains extremely detailed information about every road and intersection. The Ioniq prototype is a hybrid car, not a pure electric, which fends off another problem with self-driving cars — all those computers, cameras, and radars need a lot of juice....

That's when I pulled into the breakdown lane.


You could call Uber, but maybe a bus would be better:

"MBTA app maker sued in San Francisco" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  May 22, 2017

Elerts Corp. of Weymouth, which makes a “see something, say something” security app for riders of MBTA buses and trains, was hit by a class action lawsuit filed Monday in a San Francisco federal court. The plaintiff alleges that an Elerts app offered by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District can be used to track locations and identities of users without their permission.

Ed English, the chief executive of Elerts, said he’d first heard of the lawsuit when contacted by The Boston Globe, and therefore could not comment. But he added, “It’s certainly not our intention to track anybody.”


Elerts supplies security apps to 12 US public transportation systems. These apps are supposed to let users anonymously report suspicious activity to transit police agencies. But Pamela Moreno, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, claims that the San Francisco app collects the unique digital ID of the user’s cellphone and the phone’s location. It transmits this data at regular intervals, even when the phone’s owner is not using the app, according to the lawsuit. Armed with this information, BART can “de-anoymize” the data and find the true identities of app users, thereby violating their privacy.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $5 million.


Do you take your chances with a bike or boat?

"At CES, the weird takes center stage" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 05, 2017

LAS VEGAS — The oddest and most interesting new products on tap are imports from beyond the sea. In fact, all of them came from just two countries — China and France.

For instance, there’s the Kerastase Hair Coach, a smart hair brush from L’Oreal Group. It wouldn’t work on me, the booth lady told me in heavily accented English. My hair . . . it is too short. But she said that those with flowing locks could now brush their way to healthier, prettier hair.

The spokeswoman pointed proudly to a silvery disk in the center of the brush. A microphone, she said. It could tell the condition of a user’s hair just by listening to it as he brushes. There are also motion sensors that track how hard you brush and how many strokes you use. The brush handle vibrates if you’re doing it wrong. And a smartphone app lets you keep a permanent record of your hair brushing habits. How much? Somewhere around $200 when it goes on sale this fall. 

I think I'll shave my head, you know, the Michael Jordan look.

What is it with the French and brushes? A few yards from the Kerastase booth, a Parisian company called Kolibree displayed the Ara, an electric toothbrush with artificial intelligence. It’s not the first toothbrush that uses a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to track brushing habits. But Kolibree claims the Ara’s sensors can detect if you’ve missed a few spots. A smartphone display shows every insufficiently brushed tooth in your head, highlighted in a nasty yellowish-brown that’ll send you scrambling back to the bathroom.

Well, I don't want to be so self absorbed with my appearance, and now I have to stop brushing.

It seems a bit much, but at $129, the Ara is in the same price range as other fancy dental devices.

Putting the dentists out of business.

Related: "Nelson Wood’s attempt to do the right thing — for himself but also, he believes, for his patients — has collided with an unnerving reality: Opioids are ingrained in the culture of dentistry, and his decision has been bad for business. Wood’s story is a case study of the pressures dentists face to prescribe potent pain pills, even as research shows most of their patients would do just fine with over-the-counter medications...."

My favorite odd product from France is Eugene, a barcode scanner you attach to a wall in your home, directly above the trash can. That’s right: you scan your trash as you throw it away.

 And your carbon tax based on refuse comes to.... XXX.

This one only sounds crazy. With Eugene, an app on your smartphone keeps track of the packaged foods your family is eating, so you can track your consumption of salt, sugar, or fat. Eugene uses your discards to create shopping lists — yes, you did use up all the laundry detergent — and lets you instantly order more from Amazon or other online retailers. It even tells you whether your empty packages should be recycled.

But it has its limits. Eugene won’t read the label on a package of ground beef or that bunch of bananas you bought, so it can’t track your family’s consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, or meats.

Still, strange as it seems, Eugene could catch on with the millions who are careful about what they eat and what they throw away. It’s expected to hit American shores by year’s end, at a price of about $100. 

You throw away food? I will if it's rotted, but other than that I choke down corporate gruel rather than waste food. There are people on this planet dying of starvation every day and they throw away food in the land of plenty.

Someday they will regret the waste.

Drones have been a fixture at CES for several years, and by now they should be boring, but not just yet. 

Oh, they no longer buzz and whine so you can snooze right through it?

Zero Zero Robotics of Beijing captured my attention with its Hover Camera Passport, a $600 drone that hangs in the air shooting super-sharp 4K video or high-resolution still images. The Passport can be manually steered through a smartphone app, but it’s also got an “auto-follow” setting that lets it recognize the face and body of the user and follow him around, shooting pictures all the while. Think of it as a flying selfie stick.


The $elf-ab$orption being pushed here (as well as the ancillary spying) is di$gu$ting (investors are bulli$h).

But the strangest drone here does its hovering underwater. The PowerRay from China’s PowerVision Group might be the weirdest fishing accessory since Dan Aykroyd pitched the Super Bass-O-Matic blender on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s a sleek, science-fictiony looking thing that can dive as deep as 98 feet, while remaining connected to the surface through an electronic tether. The fisherman steers it with a smartphone or tablet, or with a set of virtual reality goggles.

Didn't China find one of those things and scramble ships and planes before handing it back over to the U.S.? The U.S. sent a battleship in response, but it broke down (Cleopatra!) in the Panama Canal. You know, it's hit or miss.

The PowerRay can transmit 4K video, or readouts from an integrated fish-finder that can be popped out and used separately. It’s also got a nose-mounted attachment where the fisherman can hang a baited hook. Now he can steer the drone straight for the nearest school of fish, and record a video of some poor salmon getting an unwanted invitation to dinner.

Bizarre? You bet. But the PowerRay would also make a fine tool for nonviolent underwater photography, or for scientific research. But you’d better apply for a grant first. The company hasn’t officially announced a price yet, but a man at the CES booth reckoned that it will sell for between $2,000 and $3,000.

So far, Europe and Asia are out front in the CES oddball sweepstakes, but the show’s just getting started. By week’s end, I expect plenty of striking new gadgets stamped “Made in America.” Either that, or I’m calling the White House....

They won't answer.


"Local companies pitch the next big tech thing" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 06, 2017

LAS VEGAS — Will Graylin’s already had his share of success. A couple of years ago he came to CES with LoopPay, a system to let people use their smartphones to make credit card payments. Samsung Corp. bought the company and used the technology to create the Samsung Pay service on the company’s Galaxy S line of smartphones.

Graylin is still a general manager of Samsung Pay. But he’s also executive chairman of ONvocal, a Northborough startup that’s created what Graylin calls “a wearable voice assistant.” 

Samsung? What else you got?

The device, OV, is a sleek Bluetooth wireless headset that works with Amazon.com’s Alexa speech control system. Alexa connects to a home’s computer network and the Internet, and it lets users control many common devices — audio equipment, TVs, heating and air conditioning systems, even cars — with simple verbal commands.

And leaves you open to hackers, or so we are told.

OV lets users issue any of these commands by touching a button and speaking. So this headset does a lot more than play music. A user can start his car remotely, turn off the television, and lower the thermostat to 68, just by saying the words. And OV also works with two other popular speech control systems, Apple’s Siri and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Now.

OV, at $399, goes on sale this month.

A much bigger local company, Boston’s Liberty Mutual Group, came to Las Vegas last year with RightTrack, a system that lets the insurer track their customers’ driving habits with an electronic device plugged into their cars. Customers who drive slower and more carefully are entitled to cheaper rates.

This year, Liberty Mutual wants to make safe driving a game that anybody can play. The company’s new HighwayHero app is a free download for Apple and Android devices. The app uses the phone’s motion detection chips to measure speed, acceleration, and braking, to determine whether the user is driving carefully. Users can compete with each other in local competitions to choose the safest driver in that community. In 16 US states — not including Massachusetts — Liberty Mutual will reward the safest drivers with lower insurance rates.

Here's my stop (it sold for how much?)-- as profits faltered the chief executive of Liberty Mutual, earned nearly $17 million (good thing they rebounded while cutting back).

WiTricity Corp. of Watertown, a maker of wireless battery charging systems, has worked with computer giant Dell Technologies to make a laptop that never needs plugging into a power outlet. The Dell Latitude 7285 incorporates WiTricity’s AirFuel system, so its battery can be recharged simply by placing the laptop on an AirFuel charging pad.

Last month, WiTricity struck a deal with General Motors to develop car-sized charging pads for feeding wireless power to electric cars.

Immedia Inc., a microchip design company in Andover, scored a major hit last year with Blink, a high-resolution Internet-linked home security camera powered by two standard AA batteries. The company says it’s sold 250,000 of them so far. At CES, Immedia has introduced a stack of new devices in a bid to become a full-service provider of home security hardware.

These include a weatherproof outdoor version of the original Blink camera; entry sensors to protect doors and windows; a keypad to arm or disarm the system; moisture sensors to detect plumbing or roof leaks; and a control hub that connects the Blink devices to a cellular data network and has battery backup in case of power outages. A starter kit of Blink products costs $339, plus an additional $19.95 monthly fee to have a security company monitor the user’s home.

I just blinked, did I miss something?

Perhaps the most unusual offering from Greater Boston comes from Cambridge Sound Management, an 18-year-old company in Woburn that makes sound generation gear to suppress unwanted noises. Many business offices use such equipment to hide distracting sounds and help workers concentrate.

Now Cambridge Sound Management has created its first product for the home. Nightingale is a $249 system that features two audio devices that are plugged into a room’s electrical outlets. Together they generate a “sound blanket” that suppresses outside noise by flooding the room with waves of peaceful sound.

Now THAT is what all the people standing under American bombs need!

Each Nightingale can be programmed to suit the acoustic qualities of a particular room. And multiple devices can be installed throughout the house and controlled through a smartphone app. The Nightingale can also be integrated with popular smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo, allowing users to turn it on and off with voice commands.

It’s a pretty elaborate answer to the quest for a good night’s sleep. But Cambridge Sound Management hopes it’s exactly what restless people have been waiting for....

Still searching.



"Samsung Monday officially revealed Bixby, its new voice assistant and Siri rival. Bixby will debut on the Samsung Galaxy S8, which the firm is unveiling later in March, the company said in a blog post. Samsung has voice recognition, called S Voice, on its Samsung phones, but analysts have been expecting a more sophisticated AI since last year. Bixby can control your phone more thoroughly than other voice assistants. According to Samsung’s post, Bixby should let you operate compatible apps completely by voice. Bixby also shouldn’t get confused if you want to mix and match voice and touch controls. In plainer English, it sounds like Bixby is also supposed to be more conversational. If it can’t understand the way you’ve phrased a request, Samsung said, it will do what it can, and then ask follow-up questions. That way, users don’t have to phrase things perfectly to be understood. Siri can sometimes provoke rage when you’re asking it to do something complex — only to get a, ‘‘Sorry, I missed that’’ in return. Of course, we won’t know how well any of this works until Bixby’s public debut on the S8 next week. But if Samsung can deliver the big promises it has made, it would offer far more to users than Siri does...."

Does it spy on you like their TVs?

It's a "new arms race in Internet access."

"And now, a second act for film and vinyl" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 19, 2017

Most of us were perfectly happy when vinyl records and cassette tapes gave way to CDs, MP3s, and streaming music, and digital cameras overtook film. The electronic substitutes are easier to use and cheaper too, but increasingly consumers are willing to put up with the messy imperfections of analog media over the cool precision of digital. They’ve come to enjoy the clicks and pops of a worn phonograph record, or the flamboyant, exaggerated colors of images captured on celluloid instead of silicon. There’s also something of a retro-cool factor at work, and increasingly tracking down old albums or seeing movies in original film format is a social thing among friends....

That's when I skipped to the next song.


Hey, I'm walking here:

"Many police officers say they don’t bother citing jaywalkers. Technically, they could be arrested for disorderly conduct but no self-respecting cop would bother taking the time to book someone for such an offense, said one city police officer who has been cursed at for chiding jaywalkers on Causeway Street...."

Better pick up the pace:

"New Balance steps into the fit tech world with $300 smartwatch" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 10, 2017

It’s a smartwatch called RunIQ, powered by chips from Intel Corp. and software from Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google. Introduced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the RunIQ, which goes on sale in February, is just the first in an upcoming family of digital products to help elite athletes record and analyze every aspect of their workouts.

Market leader Fitbit of San Francisco makes slim wrist bands that are priced from $60 to $250 and can track a runner’s speed, distance, and heart rate. Fitbit has 23 percent of the global market, according to IDC. Tech giant Samsung is heavily marketing its latest version of Gear Fit 2, a $130 device with similar capabilities.

Meanwhile the higher end of the wearables market hasn’t taken off. Apple and Google had gambled that the next big thing in consumer tech gadgetry would be the smartwatch — a wrist-mounted, touchscreen-controlled computer for the wrist, stuffed with many of the same features found on smartphones — and priced their products in the same league as the New Balance RunIQ, $300 and up, but the Apple Watch accounted for less than 5 percent of the global market for wearable devices, and the tech giant reported selling 1.1 million watches in the third quarter of 2016.

New Balance said it is targeting RunIQ at serious runners who want to get better and are willing to pay a premium price for a smartwatch that helps them do it.

“We looked at the marketplace,” New Balance executive vice president Chris Ladd said, “and realized there’s a huge hole.”

Just twisted an ankle!


And now we are off and running....

"At 70, Schwarzman parties with camels, cake, and Trump’s entourage" by Amanda Gordon Bloomberg News  February 14, 2017

NEW YORK — There were camels in the sand, a gondolier in the pool, a giant birthday cake in the shape of a Chinese temple — and Gwen Stefani to help sing ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ at midnight.

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman’s 70th birthday party Saturday in Palm Beach, Fla., was a memorable affair, according to guests who attended.

‘‘You walked into what used to be the tennis court, and there was a balcony with trapeze artists,’’ art dealer Larry Gagosian said. ‘‘The level of detail and creativity, it was extraordinary. Steve loves parties.’’

Guests said they were impressed by the production by the event-design firm Van Wyck & Van Wyck, whose clients have included Madonna, Calvin Klein, and David Koch for his own 70th.

‘‘It was brilliantly stimulating,’’ Koch said. ‘‘You learned a lot about Asian theater. There were acrobats, Mongolian soldiers, and two camels. It was a little bit of everything.’’

The guest list also was a little bit of everything, reflecting the billionaire’s vast personal, professional, philanthropic, and, increasingly, White House connections.

Representing President Donald Trump’s sphere were daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner and incoming cabinet members Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and Elaine Chao.

A decade ago, Schwarzman’s lavish 60th birthday bash in Manhattan was highly chronicled, later becoming a symbol of Wall Street’s excess just before the financial crisis wiped away almost $10 trillion in market value. This time, it was far removed from the media, tucked behind security to keep out would-be protesters. But comparisons are still possible.

Last time: The cavernous Park Avenue Armory, built for military drills and society balls during the first Gilded Age. This time: Schwarzman’s own house on what’s come to be called an American Riviera.

Last time: Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart. This time: Stefani did a set and afterward danced with Schwarzman, and ‘‘Jersey Boys’’ performers sang Frankie Valli songs.

Last time: There were moments that felt like a roast. This time: A video focused on his philanthropic endeavors. The party was ‘‘a warm and wonderful reflection of Steve’s generous support’’ of education, said Richard Levin, the former president of Yale. ‘‘His friends take pleasure in the good work that he is doing for children, institutions, and global harmony.’’

Last time: Remember that beautiful fur coat on Melania Trump? It was New York in February, on a weeknight. This time: No bundling required, with many folks golfing and swimming all day before a balmy night and fireworks alongside a full moon.

Bank bosses present included Jes Staley of Barclays and Michael Corbat of Citigroup. Investing titans Henry Kravis, David Rubenstein, and Howard Marks paid respects.

Also present were philanthropic recipients and leaders, and Olympians whose training Schwarzman sponsored. Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, and Nigel Thrift, executive director of the Schwarzman Scholars program, were there.

And for some glamour: Donatella Versace, Sloan Barnett in Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Pigozzi who came up from Panama, Nicolas Berggruen, the Hiltons, Philippe Dauman, and Francois Delattre, France’s representative to the United Nations.

The president was staying nearby at his own seaside estate turned private club, Mar-a-Lago, but didn’t attend. Many people, it seems, needed a little Palm Beach respite.

‘‘The world is an uncertain place, a lot of people are unhappy with a lot of other people, there are a lot of things that people are upset about,’’ said Marks, of Oaktree Capital. ‘‘So it’s nice to have an evening where everybody’s happy, harmonious, and upbeat.’’

Yes, life is nice when you are a member off the privileged and elite cla$$.


Did you see who couldn't make it?

Others on the gue$t li$t:

"List of billionaires includes a few locals" by Mark Shanahan Globe Staff  March 21, 2017

The rich are getting richer, and if you don’t believe us just check out Forbes.com’s new list of the world’s billionaires.

(Blog editor rai$es gla$$, takes $wig, rai$es gla$$ again while roaring)

The number of people with 10- to 11-figure fortunes now stands at 2,043, which is 233 more than last year. There are a lot of familiar names on the list, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who ranks as the world’s wealthiest human with $86 billion in the bank. (That’s $9 billion more than Gates had last year.) Other names you might recognize include Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett ($75.6 billion) Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos ($72.8 billion), and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ($56 billion.)

Buffet just ate here and Zuckerberg has been in Maine.

More than a few of these fabulously rich folks have local ties, including Medford native and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose $47.5 billion in the bank is good enough for 10th on the list. Dorchester-bred casino magnate Sheldon Adelson ranks 20th, with $30.4 billion, and Fidelity’s Abigail Johnson is 75th, with a fortune of $14.4 billion. Boston Latin School alum and former Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone is No. 288 on the list with $5.4 billion, while Jim Davis, boss of the Boston-based sneaker company New Balance, is No. 315, with $5.1 billion. Owners of Boston sports teams also make the list: Pats poobah Robert Kraft is tied for 315th, with $5.1 billion, and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is No. 402, with a fortune estimated at $4.3 billion.

Lower on the list is Red Sox/Boston Globe owner John Henry, whose $2.5 billion is good enough for 814th; Seth Klarman of Baupost Group at No. 1,376 with $1.5 billion; car dealer Herb Chambers at No 1,567 with $1.3 billion; and Sunbeam TV’s Ed Ansin at No. 1,678 with $1.2 billion.


I'm $ure they threw plenty of money around:

"KKR gets record $13.9 billion for North American buyout fund" by Melissa Mittelman Bloomberg News  March 07, 2017

NEW YORK — KKR & Co. amassed $13.9 billion for its latest private equity fund, the most ever raised for a buyout pool focused on North America.

The firm gathered the maximum $12.5 billion agreed to with investors and added $1.4 billion from its balance sheet and employees, according to a statement Monday from New York-based KKR. The fund, its 12th focused on the region, will target traditional buyouts as well as minority stakes, growth investments, and toe-hold positions in public companies, KKR said.

Private equity firms raised $589 billion of capital in 2016, according to Bain & Co.’s global private equity report published last week. While that’s 2 percent less than in 2015, the industry has continued to raise more than $500 billion every year since 2013 as investors seek to redeploy money returned to them from profitable buyout deals.

Advent International finished collecting $13 billion last year after just six months in the market, topping its $10.8 billion predecessor fund. Thoma Bravo, which focuses on software and technology investments, closed on $7.6 billion in September, double the size of its previous fund. And software-focused Vista Equity Partners has received billions of dollars in demand beyond the $8 billion target for its latest fund, people with knowledge of the process have said.

Big buyout firms aren’t showing signs of slowing down. Silver Lake is seeking $12.5 billion for its fifth main fund, people familiar with the matter said in December, and Apollo Global Management LLC has started collecting commitments for its next global private equity fund, which is expected to match or exceed the size of its current $18.4 billion pool. Meanwhile Carlyle Group LP executives have said they plan to raise $100 billion for various funds from 2016 to 2019, while KKR’s new pool is the biggest ever focused on North America....


Did you see the paintings on the wall?

The talk of the party:

"‘Hamilton’ Ponzi schemers’ victims said to include Dell, Tudor Jones" by Bloomberg News  February 07, 2017

NEW YORK — When US officials busted a Ponzi scheme that centered on marked-up tickets to the hit Broadway musical ‘‘Hamilton’’ last month, prosecutors described phone calls about a ‘‘big name’’ investor who’d demanded his money back.

As it turns out, there were several big names, including billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Michael Dell, among the 125 people who had unwittingly poured cash into the sprawling scam, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

What, were they turned away at the door?

The ringleaders would encourage patrons to put money in a pool to buy blocks of tickets for the hottest concerts and plays, the government said. The most prominent was ‘‘Hamilton,’’ whose popularity pushed prices to the highest in Broadway history. Victims were promised their money back and at least a 10 percent profit.

Isn't that called ticket $calping?

It’s rare that any Ponzi scheme ensnares business luminaries so highly skilled in the art of scrutinizing investment pitches. But to veteran securities lawyers, the case has some of the hallmarks of an affinity fraud such as Bernard Madoff’s — in which a con man’s familiarity can help instill trust.

Or the election of a president?

‘‘When the promise of a quick buck is being made by someone you socialize with, it’s all the more tempting.’’ said Paul Ryan, a former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney. Still, ‘‘the idea that there were blocks of Hamilton tickets available for purchase should have been a giveaway.’’

Three men have been charged. One is Joseph Meli, a New York event promoter and Hamptons socialite who once ran a $3,000-a-ticket concert series in the enclave. His codefendant, Steven Simmons, was allegedly the middleman tasked with raising money from investors for hedge funds. A third, Mark Varacchi, pleaded guilty to fraud on Wednesday.


Now all you need to do is find a bed for the night.