Most Powerful in the World - The Bilderberg Group Part 1

About the history of the organization known as the Bilderberg Group a collection of some of the world's most rich and powerful.



The Enterprise: Often called "the most exclusive club of the Western establishment," the Bilderberg Group is a mixed collection of some of the world's most powerful financiers, industrialists, statesmen, and intellectuals, who get together each year for a private conference on world affairs. The meetings provide an informal, off-the-record opportunity for international leaders to mingle, and are notorious for the cloak of secrecy they are held under.

History: A Polish political philosopher who was an avid crusader for a united Europe first conceived of the idea for a private gathering of the world's elite. Worried over a rising tide of anti-American feeling in Europe, Dr. Joseph H. Retinger approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1952 with a proposal to chair a series of meetings aimed at reestablishing and redefining American and European relations. Bernhard enthusiastically embraced the plan, and the two drew up a list of representatives from Western Europe and the U.S., their original intention being to invite two people from each country to give both the conservative and liberal viewpoints. However, the Americans were just then embroiled in the 1952 presidential campaign and brushed aside the proposal. After two years of contacting various Americans and Europeans, Retinger's dream finally bore fruit. In 1954 a collection of carefully selected business and political leaders from Europe and the U.S. met near Arnhem in the Netherlands at the Hotel de Bilderberg, from which the group derived its name. Shrouded in secrecy, the meeting received little attention despite the phenomenon of so many of the leading citizens of the industrialized world being gathered in one place. One of the concerns of the original meeting was the wave of McCarthyism that was sweeping America at the time. American representatives reassured their European counterparts that the anticommunist fanaticism was merely a short-term trend that would soon die out.

The first meeting was such a success that they decided to meet once a year and establish a steering committee whose primary function would be to choose the roster for the next year's meeting. Participation in the Bilderberg Group is by invitation only, and just because a person is invited one year does not necessarily mean he or she will be invited the next. There are no permanent members except the 25 to 30 people on the steering committee who retain their seats unless they take a government office, at which time they nominate a successor for the vacated post. In the early days, the Bilderberg Group drew 50 to 60 people, but in recent years it has attracted well over 120. Out-of-the-way, exclusive spots, such as the Villa d'Este at Lake Como in Italy and St. Simons Island off the Georgia coast, are favored for the annual meetings. The group usually takes over an entire hotel, which is closely watched by security guards, and the members live, eat, and drink together for three days. Wives and husbands of the group are not invited. Each member pays his own way to the meeting, although impoverished academics are given air fare. Basic operating expenses for a small office in The Hague are covered by contributions from wealthy members or their companies. The group has met every year since 1954 except for 1976, when a Lockheed bribery scandal involving Prince Bernhard caused an embarrassed steering committee to postpone the event. Although committee members anxiously debated at the time whether to abandon the whole idea, they decided against it, and people accepted invitations to the next year's meeting as eagerly as ever.

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