Thursday, January 24, 2008

Davos 2008 - Who's piste off?

Although the worlds Expert Business leaders and politicians gather each year in the Swiss mountain town of Davos to size up the challenges facing the global economy a few of them are not there this year.

Let's see "Who's Piste Off" from the Telegraph's point of view.

It is the most sought-after invitation of the year for politicians and businessmen alike. So spare a thought for the poor souls who will this year suffer the indignity of staying at home or - worse still - find themselves in another skiing resort. Whether through misfortune, misadventure or pure misery, there will be some notable absentees this year. A minute's silence, then, for the Davos rejects.

It wouldn't do to invite the biggest cheerleader for the global credit bubble, would it? Chuck Prince, the former boss of Citigroup, was for years a regular fixture on the Davos circuit, exuding an unflappable confidence even last year, when the cries of warning about an imminent crisis in financial markets were becoming significantly louder.

Prince is not the only leading banker to have fallen dramatically from grace in the past six months. Perhaps he could club together with dinner jacket-loving Stan O'Neal, formerly of Merrill Lynch...

... and Jimmy Cayne, the embattled head of Bear Stearns. They could even host a rival conference on financial hubris, called something cliched like "Bouncing Back".

This is not the first Davos Lord Browne, the former BP chief, has missed. Despite his billing last year as one of the conference's co-chairmen, the Sir Ian McKellen lookalike was mysteriously absent. The official reason was a bout of flu, though he had coincidentally suffered the indignity of announcing his impending departure from the company just weeks earlier.

This time around the man perennially proclaimed as Britain's greatest businessman will again be notable by his absence. Rumour has it that Tony Hayward, Browne's successor, is planning to keep a low profile (not flapping his arms about in a pink shirt like that, he isn't), so it might be up to another ambitious chief executive to assume the WEF's co-chairman's mantle.

For the first time in years, the Chancellor will not be at the World Economic Forum - unlike most of his international counterparts. Treasury spokesmen insist that Alistair Darling has far more important things to attend to - such as wade through those lengthy red tomes - although some mutter that Britain's absence is due less to scheduling problems than to embarrassment over Northern Rock.

Talking of Northern Rock, snowed-under former chairman Adam Applegarth might as well book himself in for a week's skiing elsewhere in the Alps. The PR challenge of describing to Davos Man (mantra: "failure is not an option") how Britain suffered the first run on a major bank since Victorian times will instead be left in the shaky hands of the Prime Minister. Himself an old Davos hand, Gordon Brown is flying in and out on Friday - presumably before Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, pins him down for an explanation.

Another of the mighty who has fallen over the past year, Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank chief, was one of the big names on the roster in 2007, hobnobbing with Bono and Blair on Africa. The hereafter has been less blissful. Following a scandal involving him and his girlfriend, who also worked for the Bank and enjoyed a mysteriously rapid (and lucrative) ascent to its top ranks, he resigned from the aid giant in the summer.

However, the NGOs that now crowd Davos need not fear - his replacement, Robert Zoellick, will be along to talk aid and suffer harassment. Wolfowitz's Washington stablemate, the delightfully-named Rodrigo de Rato (left) of the International Monetary Fund, will also be a no-show, having been replaced by Dominique Strauss-Kahn last year.

Hands up if you're not welcome: Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has more pressing things to worry about than topping up his glass in the VIP Igloo bar in the swanky five-star Belvedere hotel in Davos...

So too does Ken Livingstone, who will stay at home in London lest fellow Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson pounces on any opportunity for ridicule. Besides, last year "Red Ken" - halo or no halo - managed to crash his car on the descent from the resort and he will be keen to avoid any further slip-ups on the thin ice upon which he treads.

And finally... Davos will be spared the celebrity couple du jour as French president and his current squeeze, the Italian singer/supermodel/actress Carla Bruni, will be arm in arm and clad in aviators on the other side of the globe. While Monsieur Sarkozy has official business in India, his nation will be represented by prime minister François Fillon.


Rudi said...

Hi Johnny,
Great info as usual. You are an amazing writer, you "turn the light on" information so I get motivated to read more. Same with bjorn and Constance and Rich. Did some reading and viewing on the Telegraph link. Interesting videos to watch. Soros calling for a "world finance sheriff", Blair on stage with Henry Kissinger, Al Gore and Bono sounding the "planetary emergency"
alarm. Such fools! -Rudi

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” Romans 1:22

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20

johnny said...


Amen Rudi, Amen! Perfect scriptures.

Thanks Rudi for keeping an eye on me.

Goodness gracious there's so much to read, isn't there.

Trying to catch my breath in between all of these "Saving The World" conferences.


Kera said...

Great article about the meeting of losers, Johnny. If I can say a quick word - off the subject though. I was reading Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Gog & Magog) and came across the the words that say (paraphrased) the unwalled city or city with no walls (Israel of course) and I suddenly though about the recent Gaza-Egypt border and how the walls are coming down. It was a profound thought to me last night because I have wondered in previous readings of that how is Israel a city with no walls, should I take it literally? I am starting to think I should. Just wanted to pass on the thought. Rudi, I love the scripture. k