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Silicon Valley’s Churchill Club events forum shuts down after 35-year run

The Churchill Club survived for decades as Silicon Valley’s leadership forum, spanning the eras of chip startups, dot-com companies, and social media. But it has been felled by the coronavirus. RIP.

Churchill Club CEO Karen Tucker today announced the long-running Silicon Valley thought leadership forum will cease operations.

“After an amazing 35-year run, I am sad to report that Churchill Club must disband,” Tucker said in an email. “The proliferation of technology and business-related events and speaker forums — in both the digital and real worlds — has been making it increasingly difficult for small nonprofit organizations such as ours to compete and thrive.”

“We were exploring changes to our business model and potential new directions and partnerships when a dip in short-term corporate sponsorship occurred early this year. The impact of reduced financial support has now been compounded by the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to make this unfortunate and difficult decision,” Tucker concluded.

Working closely with the Computer History Museum, Churchill Club has arranged to have all current members offered complimentary memberships to CHM. Members will be contacted individually with this offer.

A storied history

Churchill Club has been an independent thought leadership forum in Silicon Valley since 1985, pursuing a mission to strengthen innovation, economic growth, and social good.

The first meeting of Churchill Club was November 12, 1985 and featured Robert Noyce, integrated circuit pioneer and founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Churchill Club was founded by Rich Karlgaard, now publisher of Forbes magazine, and Tony Perkins, former editor in chief of Upside Magazine and AlwaysOn. Noyce and Karlgaard, together with a group of friends, created an organization dedicated to producing programs where “important people say important things.” They named the club after the great orator Winston Churchill.

The Churchill Club stage brought tech industry giants, rock stars, and other critical thinkers together in iconic conversations that examined the implications of “what’s new, next, and not widely known,” unfolding trends and future opportunities. Speakers have included IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, current CEO Satya Nadella, and former CEO Steve Ballmer; Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and former chair Eric Schmidt; Oracle founder Larry Ellison; Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings; SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk; LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner; Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg; the late Andy Grove, an Intel cofounder; and the late Bill Campbell, a former Intuit chair.

Among prominent investors who have graced the stage were Vinod Khosla, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Ron Conway, Mary Meeker, and Roger McNamee. The Churchill Club stage also hosted a diverse collection of luminaries from outside of tech who have had an impact for societal good, including actor James Caan, best-selling author Michael Lewis, Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel, government leaders such as former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and philanthropist and author Chelsea Clinton.

They even let me moderate a session about video games once with former Microsoft games chief Peter Moore. I remembered going to hear luminaries like Intel chair emeritus Gordon Moore, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and movie maker James Cameron.

Live events were the Churchill Club’s bread and butter. Its annual VC Top 10 Tech Trends and the Churchill’s awards programs were coveted tickets, as was its long-running holiday Gadgets program, which was cohosted by journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

Hallmarks of the club were its opportunities for education, professional development, and networking, which were core to its mission. Its discussions attracted audiences of senior executives in a variety of strategic roles, investors, startup entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics, nonprofit leaders, and influential journalists. Churchill Club curated its audience to get the right people in the room, individuals who played integral roles within the ecosystem and could make change happen.

The club was exemplified by its logo — the bowler hat, also known as the derby, which became a symbol of class equality throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The bowler leveled the visual playing field, encouraging more openness toward others and their ideas, which is exactly what the club strove to do for the past three-plus decades.

“We sincerely thank our staff, volunteers, members, and sponsors for their support over the years,” Tucker said.

Those interested can relive some of the greatest moments at the Churchill Club on YouTube.

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