There’s been a bit of a shake-up at our favorite medical conference, TEDMED. It appears that TEDMED owner Marc Hodosh has sold the conference to an entrepreneur, inventor, founder of Priceline.com, and TEDMED speaker Jay Walker, who is currently the Chairman of Walker Digital, an R&D firm with interest in health and medicine, among many other pursuits.
This afternoon, TEDMED attendees were sent the following email from Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of both TED and TEDMED, expressing his disappointment with the way the sale transpired and his announcement that he will no longer be involved in the conference in any way. At previous conferences, Richard and Marc co-moderated the event in a dynamic partnership.
In his note, Richard describes the intention for the new TEDMED to be “a mega-event, rather like a medical Davos.” This year, TEDMED will still be held in San Diego but plans are to move it to Washington DC in 2012.
Friends of TEDMED, sponsors (profit and particularly non-profit), conferees, personal friends, presenters and service providers,
On the advice of counsel and because I feel it is my moral and ethical responsibility to all of you who have given me and TEDMED the benefits of your enthusiasm, energy, brilliance and financial support, without which I would never have been able to produce this or any conference, I am writing to inform you that Mr. Hodosh, to whom I entrusted TEDMED, has sold the conference to Mr. Walker for $16 million with future additional payments of as much as $9 million, and options to Mr. Walker’s new company, TEDMED LLC. I will have no further involvement of any kind with TEDMED. This was finalized without my concurrence while I was away on spring holiday with my wife and grandchildren.
You are all smart people and I don’t think I need to breast-beat or vent what has led me to this very difficult and painful decision (though I am sorely tempted). Let it suffice to say that the way in which this deal was made and their plans for the future of the conference have made it impossible for me to continue to participate.
I have been informed by Mr. Walker and Mr. Hodosh in separate conversations that this year’s TEDMED will be the last one in San Diego at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado. Next May it will move to the Washington, D.C. area and morph into a mega-event, rather like a medical Davos. I point you to a New York Times article written by Andrew Ross Sorkin which gives the flavor of that event:
This is completely alien to the spirit and passion with which TEDMED has thrived, and not in any way a form that has interest to me. In fact, it is the antithesis of what I believe made TED, when I created it, TEDMED, and the eg conference, unique and magical. The Washington event will even have formal dress balls in the evening.
So, if life is full of curve balls, I now have my catcher’s mitt on and I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to all of you for all you have given to me and the conference, and to let you know that I will be back in touch with you soon regarding, what I do think, will be the new direction for gatherings (as an alternative, not a replacement to the old form), a mold-breaking, new kind of communication that I have been contemplating for the last year and is now very close to being ready to announce.
It is called WWW.WWW and it will occur in September 2012 as a live and quite affordable iPAD enterprise app. It will combine a small live audience with pairings of various combinations of the 100 greatest minds of the twenty-first century in improvised conversations addressing the key W words such as the World, Weather, Water, War, Well-being, Wealth, the Web, Wit; I think you get it. Intellectual jazz.
I do hope to see all of you again on this and other future adventures.
Richard Saul Wurman
[contact information redacted]
We’ve reached out to the new TEDMED team, and a representative for Mr. Walker sent us the following statement:
Statement of Jay S. Walker, Chairman, TEDMED
On behalf of the new owners of the TEDMED conference, we are surprised and saddened that Richard Saul Wurman has chosen to part company with TEDMED. Richard has been a pioneer and a leader in the development of TEDMED, and we are disappointed that the sale of the company didn’t occur the way he had hoped.
We are also disappointed that his disagreement with our future plans for TEDMED would lead him to reveal information given to him on a confidential basis as part of over four months of negotiations to provide for Mr. Wurman’s future role in TEDMED.
We are big believers in the future of TEDMED, and our substantial investment backs that up. TEDMED is far more than simply an annual conference. It has become one of the world’s most important gatherings for the best thinkers and innovators in medicine worldwide.
Our commitment is to grow TEDMED and to make it even more important to the world of medicine. Richard is correct when he says our desire is to make TEDMED the medical equal to the World Economic Forum held in Davos. We admire the contribution that Davos makes to enhanced global economic thinking. Our goal is to provide all members of the TEDMED community with a program that focuses on innovation and leads in the discussion of medicine’s future progress and transformation.
[contact information redacted]
So there you have it. We’re sorry that Richard Saul Wurman is leaving TEDMED, which he created and curated for such a long time. And we are looking forward to see how Jay Walker’s creativity will transform TEDMED in the coming years.
Links: TEDMED…, TED…