Harold Hamm, the billionaire oilman and shale pioneer, was also praised by the president. “Harold Hamm. He puts a straw into the ground and oil pours out.”
“He’s been with me from the beginning,” Mr. Trump said.
Chuffed by his success with China, Mr. Trump teased Nelson Peltz, the activist investor, about his investment in General Electric, and he mused that the financial crisis might not have happened a decade ago if Maurice Greenberg, who was in the audience, had remained at the American International Group.
Mr. Peltz, speaking to reporters alongside Mr. Trump after the event, remarked that it was a “world-shaking event today.”
At times, Mr. Trump was disappointed when he could not spot a friendly face he was seeking in the crowd.
“I can’t believe Rupert is not here,” Mr. Trump said of Rupert Murdoch, the Fox mogul, who helped fuel the president’s rise. “Rupert is fantastic, and the whole family is just a great family.”
The gilded audience grated some on social media, who mocked Mr. Trump’s overt embrace of the rich with Twitter hashtags such as “#billionairesSellingtochina.” But for Mr. Trump, who will travel next week to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, it was clear that billionaires are also his base.
Four years ago, Mr. Trump mocked hedge fund managers as talentless paper pushers who were “getting away with murder.” But on Wednesday, he was seeking out Ken Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund manager who runs Citadel, for a verbal embrace.
“Ken Griffin, Citadel. What a guy he is. Where are you, Ken? Where the hell is he?” Mr. Trump wondered. “He’s trying to hide some of his money. Look, he doesn’t want to stand up. Where the hell is Ken?”