Last week Barack Obama traveled across Europe to speak at three sold-out events in Norway, Finland and Denmark.
While his speeches did little to excite—the former President stuck to tried and tested talking points on climate change, diversity, and populism—Forbes estimates a handful of wealthy European business leaders spent $508,624 on securing photos with the statesman.
At Oslo Business Forum in Norway on Wednesday, 50 attendees each paid 32,000 Norwegian kroner ($3,912) for VIP tickets that included a brief meet with the 44th President, a handshake and a photograph.
Backstage Obama reportedly shared a few moments of small talk with each VIP ticket holder, before leaving to address the remaining 3,000 attendees.
For those businesspeople who could only afford the standard 5,000kr ($600) conference tickets, a mad rush ensued as they scrambled through chairs and dashed for a coveted seat near the front of the auditorium.
These most-dedicated attendees were greeted to a speech that focused on Obama’s legacy and plans for the future, conspicuously avoiding mention of his successor or the top political issues of the day.
Questions put to Obama by the moderator were noticeably soft, including “if you were President once more, for a day, what would you have done and why?” and “what advice would you give to yourself, if you met yourself at 20?”.
Jordi Perez Colome, a technology journalist at Spain’s El Pais daily newspaper who was among the audience, said: “Obama was inspirational as he only knows how to be. The audience wanted to find it delightful and you bet they did.”
“But Obama avoided almost any comment on the news and just came back to stories and thoughts that he has told many times before.”
The President’s appearance in Norway also came with some strange restrictions on photos.
Minutes before Obama took to the stage the 3,000-strong audience were told the use of mobile phones and the taking of photos during his panel were prohibited, leading to laughter from the crowd.
Journalists at the event were under even stricter instructions, with photos only allowed during the first five minutes of his speech, after which time “all cameras must be put away, lens caps on, or cameras directed towards the floor.”
The following day in Helsinki, Finland, Obama addressed 7,500 attendees at the Nordic Business Forum, but not before shaking a further 73 VIP attendees’ hands who’d each paid €3,700 ($4,288) for the privilege of a photo with the President.
Neither Oslo Business Forum (OBF) nor the Nordic Business Forum would disclose how much Obama was paid for his 60-minute on-stage appearances, OBF told Forbes:
“What we have agreed upon regarding this session remains between us and his office.”
Last year it was reported that the former President was one of the world’s most expensive public speakers, billing upwards of $400,000 for speeches given at Wall Street firms.
Local Danish media reported earlier last month that Obama had threatened to pull out of his Friday appearance at an invite-only business summit in Kolding should any details of his contract with the event organizers be made public.