Richard Gere special guest at Russian business conference where women are given as prizes
Richard Gere made an unlikely appearance at a star-studded business forum in Moscow, which he described as a "city of light".
The event, on Monday, caused controversy after twin female business assistants were offered as a contest prize.
Organisers from the Synergy business school told The Telegraph that “there should not be any information about Richard Gere” in its coverage because of a condition in his contract allowing them to “invite only Russian press”.
Gere, 69, known for roles in films including Pretty Woman, was perhaps an unusual booking as the headline speaker at the Synergy Global Forum, which also featured MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, author Malcolm Gladwell, actor Steven Seagal and the human-like robot Sophia.
Tickets ranged from £175 to more than £5,000 for VIP access.
The Hollywood leading man told the crowd at Moscow’s Olympic stadium largely about his acting career and Buddhist beliefs.
He called on Vladimir Putin to bring the Dalai Lama, who addressed last year’s Synergy forum by video, to Russia.
At the forum, Gere also said Moscow, which was “dark and repressive” when he first visited in 1989, was now a “city of light” that “feels like it’s a part of Europe”. But Russians should remember that “we’re all in the same boat,” rather than try to be the strongest or most important, he added.
Organisers said they did not know how much Mr Gere had been paid, but past honorariums have been hefty.
Synergy gave American motivational speaker Tony Robbins $1 million (£785,000) to talk to a sold-out crowd of 26,000 people at Olympic stadium in September, the school’s director has previously said.
Organisers denied that Gere was trying to keep his Moscow appearance out of English-language headlines.
“If you take any big star, they almost all have this, it’s about raising media interest in this person in each individual country,” one said. “They want there to be an interest for him to come speak in person in other countries.”
Representatives for Gere did not immediately reply to requests for comment. This year’s forum also awarded prizes in a year-long “business marathon”.
While the top-scoring entrepreneur was to receive a Moscow flat and the runner-up a Lexus automobile, third place was advertised as “twin business assistants for a year” with a photograph of two blondes in red blazers and low-cut tops.
Announcing the awards on Tuesday, Grigory Avetov, the Synergy director, complained that he had been unfairly accused of chauvinism over the twin assistants.
Instead, the third-place winner would get to make a business presentation at Olympic stadium, he said. He later claimed that the twins were “included as a prize more as a joke”.
“There can only be sexism against men, our rights are being violated, because [women] are more beautiful, dress better, you’re better in all parametres,” he told BBC Russian service.
Founded in 1988, the Synergy business school has become the largest private institution of higher learning in Russia and claims that its annual forum is the “biggest business event in the world”.
British billionaire Richard Branson, boxer Mike Tyson and filmmaker Oliver Stone are among the Western celebrities who have appeared.