So far a big topic of conversation here in Davos is who decided not to attend this year’s World Economic Forum. Now, maybe that has something to do with the fact that the festivities don’t officially kick off until tonight and the panel discussions don’t begin until tomorrow, and so all people are left with is checking in at their favorite watering holes to search for familiar faces.
Still, last year a certain Curious Capitalist wondered if the largess of Davos could be on a long-term decline, considering the extended economic slump. In an era of ever-tighter budgets, perhaps a week in the Swiss mountains isn’t exactly at the top of most corporate and government funding priorities. One tech guru told me he’d have time to meet me for fondue—a bunch of his buddies who’ve attended Davos in the past this year decided to stay home.
But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe a less trendy World Economic Forum is exactly what we need.
Last night one British political type was telling me that she’s getting the sense that the folks who are showing up are the ones who are the most focused, the most interested in really talking about substantive issues. In a preview press conference, one reporter asked where all the celebrities had gone—is Bono not even showing up this year? Perhaps with a little less flash and glamour, there will be more room for the real point of the meeting: talking about (and ostensibly starting to solve) pressing problems of international concern.
That said, the two big groups that people are most talking about as missing—American bankers and Obama Administration officials—would be nice to have around.
On the banker side, one notable absence is J.P Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. A number of Chase execs are making the trek (including vice chairman William Daley), yet the refrain of “Where’s Jamie?” is already a familiar one. Another much-talked-about MIA: Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein. The heads of Citibank and Bank of America are here, but this is not an easily satisfied crowd, especially in a year when Topic A is financial industry reform.
In terms of the Obama Administration, economics advisor Larry Summers is present and accounted for. He’ll undergo a one-on-one with Charlie Rose about what the White House plans to do about the economy in 2010—should be interesting—and he’ll also sit on a larger panel about the global economic outlook. As for other folks close to Obama, the roster comes up fairly empty. That probably has something to do with the inconveniently times State of the Union, although the Davos crowd is chattering about whether it doesn’t also signify a certain amount of insularity. If you can imagine.