The Duke of York captured the mood at last year’s Davos gathering of the rich and influential as well as anybody.
Where the tone at the 2009 meeting had been a year of “pessimism”, in 2010 it had been one of “pragmatism”. For “optimism”, he told the 250 guests at his evening reception, you would need to come back in 2011.
Within two weeks, the 2,000 delegates at the World Economic Forum’s flagship event in the Swiss Alpine resort will find out if the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment was right.
Once again, Davos will be peopled by business celebrities, feature workshops and think-ins, press conferences and private seminars, and of course, parties and plenty of opportunity for deal-making in hotel bars. The slopes will be empty and the streets full of suits.
George Osborne and David Cameron are flying in, briefly, and the Chancellor is guest of honour at the British Business Leaders Lunch, one of the key events of the week.
The bankers will be back, too. In purdah last year, the financial titans turned up in fewer numbers. All the discussion was about bonuses, which must be the expectation this year too, though other issues are likely to find space.
Bob Diamond, Barclays CEO, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase’s CEO, Josef Ackermann, Deutsche Bank’s CEO, John Mack and Walid Chammah of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs’s Gary Cohn and Richard Gnodde, Vikram Pandit of Citi, Eric Daniels, the outgoing boss of Lloyds Banking Group, Credit Suisse boss Brady Dougan and HSBC chief, Stuart Gulliver, will all be trudging through the snow.
Billionaires will mingle with the mere millionaires, too. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are representing their Foundation, Google co-founder Larry Page is showing up, as is Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate.
George Soros is leading the hedge fund contingent, which is represented also by Chris Cooper Hohn of TCI and Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital Management. Private equity also has a strong showing. Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Stephen Schwarzmann of Blackstone to name a couple.
Industrialists and retailers will also be there in force. Terry Leahy of Tesco, Marc Bolland of M&S, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, pictured, Wal-Mart’s Doug McMillon and Nike’s Mark Parker among them. BP’s Carl-Henric Svanberg and Shell’s Peter Voser will be there too.
Let’s hope the annual brainstorming and networking session fills them with the optimism the Duke predicted.