The Secret Rulers of the World: The Bilderberg Group (2001)
Ronson teams up with reporter James P. Tucker, Jr., who has been investigating the Bilderberg Group, an annual invitation-only conference, for over thirty years. According to Tucker, around 130 guests, most of whom are persons of influence in business, academic, or political circles, meet annually in secret. The duo encounter unwelcoming suited security men and a car chase. Ronson also interviews Group founder Denis Healey.
The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of around 130 guests, most of whom are people of influence in the fields of politics, banking, business, the military and media. Each conference is closed to the public and the press.
The original conference was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg, near Arnhem in The Netherlands, from 29 May to 31 May 1954. It was initiated by several people, including Józef Retinger, concerned about the growth of anti-Americanism in Western Europe, who proposed an international conference at which leaders from European countries and the United States would be brought together with the aim of promoting atlanticism – better understanding between the cultures of the United States and Western Europe in order to foster cooperation on political, economic, and defense issues. Retinger approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who agreed to promote the idea, together with Belgian Prime Minister Paul Van Zeeland, and the head of Unilever at that time, Dutchman Paul Rijkens. Bernhard in turn contacted Walter Bedell Smith, then head of the CIA, who asked Eisenhower adviser Charles Douglas Jackson to deal with the suggestion. The guest list was to be drawn up by inviting two attendees from each nation, one of each to represent conservative and liberal points of view. Fifty delegates from 11 countries in Western Europe attended the first conference along with 11 Americans.
The success of the meeting led the organizers to arrange an annual conference. A permanent Steering Committee was established, with Retinger appointed as permanent secretary. As well as organizing the conference, the steering committee also maintained a register of attendee names and contact details, with the aim of creating an informal network of individuals who could call upon one another in a private capacity. Conferences were held in France, Germany, and Denmark over the following three years. In 1957, the first US conference was held in St. Simons, Georgia, with $30,000 from the Ford Foundation. The foundation supplied further funding for the 1959 and 1963 conferences.
Meetings are organized by a steering committee with two members from each of around eighteen nations. Official posts, in addition to a chairman, include an Honorary Secretary General. There is no such category in the group's rules as a "member of the group". The only category that exists is "member of the Steering Committee". In addition to the committee, there also exists a separate advisory group, though membership overlaps.
Dutch economist Ernst van der Beugel took over as permanent secretary in 1960, upon Retinger's death. Prince Bernhard continued to serve as the meeting's chairman until 1976, the year of his involvement in the Lockheed affair. The position of Honorary American Secretary General has been held successively by Joseph E. Johnson of the Carnegie Endowment, William Bundy of Princeton, Theodore L. Eliot, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Casimir A. Yost of Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
A 2008 press release from the American Friends of Bilderberg stated that "Bilderberg's only activity is its annual Conference. At the meetings, no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued" and noted that the names of attendees were available to the press. The Bilderberg group unofficial headquarters is the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
According to the American Friends of Bilderberg, the 2008 agenda dealt "mainly with a nuclear free world, cyber terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, US-EU relations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islam and Iran".
* Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1954–1975)
* Walter Scheel
* Alec Douglas-Home (1977–1980)
* Eric Roll (1986–1989)
* Lord Carrington (1990–1998)
* Étienne Davignon
List of Bilderberg participants