Ask some of the richest and most powerful people in the world in Davos this week and they’ll tell you: After a two-year epidemic-induced break from a Swiss ski resort, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is not going to go well. The same.
Hundreds of names are short on the guest list, where many titans of meaning are clearly missing. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. And JPMorgan Chase & Co. Its chiefs are not going Neither Larry Fink nor Steve Schwarzmann of BlackRock Inc. is a private-equity billionaire.
The usual team of superwealthy Russian tycoons is also missing – many of those who took part in 2020 are now approved – and many of their Chinese rivals.
Even time and weather are off: Instead of normal snow and crisp January winds, May Davos forecasts rain. (Welcome packs for WEF delegates include umbrellas instead of crampons.)
The protracted epidemic, massive inflation, the stock market crash and the war in Ukraine mark a dark background for the five-day event. Highlighting all of this is this year’s theme, which has a vicious circle: “History at a turning point.”
“I don’t think there’s just excitement,” said Wendy Craft, chief of staff at Fulcrum Equities, a New York-based family office. “Markets, wars and viruses certainly don’t help.”
The event is still expected to attract around 2,000 participants, not counting the number of those who come but do not attend the official event. Jane Fraser of Citigroup Inc. and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America Corporation will be there.
The same would be true of the 90 billionaires tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Among them are philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, hedge fund mogul Ray Dalio and India’s Gautam Adani, whose personal fortunes skyrocketed this year, making him the sixth richest man in the world.
By comparison, at least 119 billionaires had gathered in the city in January 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak began. This includes Jamie Damon, who is currently in New York for a big JPMorgan Investor Day. Goldman is sending a handful of top executives, but not David Solomon, its chief executive officer.
About 50 heads of state or government are expected to attend, with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz being the sole leader of the Group of Seven.
And when President Donald Trump took over the spotlight in 2020, the US delegation will be led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raymondo this year. The most senior Chinese official is Special Envoy for Climate Change Xi Jinhua.
The man of the moment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, will address a rally in war-torn Kyiv on Monday.
Once guests have joined a series of panels, they can, as usual, climb 33 stone stairs to the Stenberger Grand Hotel Belvedere for closed door confabs. They will have fewer teams to choose from in the evening. For example, JPMorgan will not host its traditional event at a local art gallery.
Many of those attending this year are thrilled to be back to normal: meeting, handshake, sipping a Monsanto, piano bar, Europe’s highest-brewed local beer.
“I look forward to seeing people in person,” said Tim Goki, CEO of Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc., based in Lake Success, New York.
David Spring, founder of venture date lender Runway Growth Capital, said he decided to give up his entry pass at the meeting this year and only planned to go to the offsite event, which he helped organize.
“I found that I could meet my new goals without the white badge,” Spring said
The biggest difference may just be the weather.
A Wall Street executive recently taunted an associate: Davos is not Davos without snow.
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