Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, is also here this year. He is seated at the Uber table, having just struck a deal to invest $9 billion in the company at a 30 percent discount to the company’s previous valuation of $68 billion, although he had also invested $1 billion at the company’s previous valuation to maintain the fiction that the company was still worth $68 billion. It’s been a tough year at the Uber table of frenemies: Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new chief executive; Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder; Arianna Huffington, an Uber board member; and Bill Gurley, one of Uber’s largest investors. To help keep the peace, we’ve invited a calming influence to sit with them: Anthony Scaramucci, the Mooch, who had his own tough year as the president’s director of communications for a hot minute.
We had extended an invitation to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, but our invitation was returned. When we tried to call him at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, otherwise known as the Royal Prison, we were told, “The hotel telephone lines are currently disconnected until further notice.” (By the way, that’s not a joke.)
And then there is the Facebook table: Mark Zuckerberg is here this year along with Sheryl Sandberg. We’re sorry to say that Vladimir Putin could not make it. I jest! Sort of.
Finally, we have the Bitcoin table: The Winklevoss twins, newly minted as Bitcoin billionaires (cut out the gloating and spitballs to the Facebook table, please) and Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, who has said Bitcoin mania is “worse than tulip bulbs,” adding: “It won’t end well. Someone is going to get killed.” We’d love to hear the dinner conversation among you all.
Now, on to the toasts of 2017.
DEAL OF THE YEAR Amazon.com’s acquisition of Whole Foods came as a true surprise. The deal has the potential to truly accelerate Amazon’s march into our daily lives by giving it an even closer distribution point to our homes. It also was a signal to the rest of the marketplace that nothing is off limits. The betting line is that the next land grab for Amazon is pharmaceuticals, which may have driven CVS’s $68 billion bid for Aetna. Also, a postscript: One deal that has not received enough credit but that proved itself in 2017 was Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com. The $3.3 billion acquisition of a money-losing site seemed like a mistake, but has breathed new life into Walmart’s e-commerce business.
SURPRISE I.P.O. SUCCESS Roku, the streaming television company, went public, and its stock is up 280 percent, one of the highest increases of the year. The company is being compared to Netflix and is considered a pure-play bet on over-the-top streaming television services.
A SIGN OF THE TOP? Blue Apron, a meal kit service, went public and quickly fell faster than Pets.com. Who thought that was a good idea?
TRUMP WINNERS Stock investors were some of the biggest beneficiaries in 2017, with a rally that began when Mr. Trump won the presidency. On an individual basis, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group gambled early and publicly on Mr. Trump, despite protests inside and outside his firm. It gave him a ringside seat to the White House last year. Saudi Arabia backed a new $40 billion infrastructure fund by the firm. And Mr. Schwarzman, like the entire private equity industry, was a beneficiary of the new tax plan, which kept carried interest taxed at capital gains rates with only a slight adjustment.
MORAL C.E.O. WINNER Kenneth C. Frazier of Merck was the first chief executive on one of Mr. Trump’s councils to rebuke the president’s comments after violence in Charlottesville, Va. A wave of executives followed suit, but only after Mr. Frazier made the first move. That took real courage.
TWITTER C.E.O. WINNER Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs won Twitter in 2017 with this witty tweet during the solar eclipse: “Wish the moon wasn’t the only thing casting a shadow across the country. We got through one, we’ll get through the other.”
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR Say what you will about Elon Musk — he has fans and critics — but he again proved that he thinks differently. Sure, he introduced new Teslas and sent more rockets into space. But he also introduced perhaps his craziest idea: the Boring Company. Technically, he founded the company in December 2016, but it was during 2017 that we really learned about his ambitions: He wants to dig huge tunnels under the earth to create a patchwork of roadways. The economics and physics of it all have been questioned. But as a venture capitalist, Jason Calacanis, said this summer: “Betting against Elon Musk is betting against the future of humanity, and it’s an incredibly stupid thing to do.”
THANK YOU OF THE YEAR Janet Yellen, the departing Federal Reserve chairwoman, deserves our genuine thanks for steering the economy successfully and overseeing a drop in the unemployment rate to levels not seen in decades. She took verbal abuse from our president, who called her “obviously political” before he was elected, only for him to double back and praise her once he realized that his economy was her economy, too.
MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE IN BUSINESS The exposure of bad behavior by men toward women in the workplace — and elsewhere — throughout virtually all industries was perhaps the most important and profound story of the year. It has already shaken up a multitude of businesses, and more revelations are likely to come. Its impact on our culture and office politics will last far longer, hopefully, than anything else discussed at tonight’s dinner.
QUESTION OF THE YEAR Why does the administration really want to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal? Of course, the speculation in media circles is it has to do with Mr. Trump’s war on CNN. That may or may not be true. But the president didn’t help himself when Sarah Huckabee Sanders quoted him as saying he supported a rival merger between Mr. Murdoch and Disney, saying that “this could be a great thing for jobs” when it plainly will result in layoffs.