Andrew Ross Sorkin has a preliminary roster of no-shows and their excuses for sending their regrets, generally some form of “it’s a ridiculous display of ostentation and an enormous waste of time.”

The billionaire Warren E. Buffett has never attended. Neither has Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of Apple, the world’s largest company by market value. (His predecessor, Steve Jobs, never went, either.) The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, stopped going a couple of years ago, as did Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chairman. Both companies do send other executives, though.

The leaders of General Electric and IBM, Jeffrey R. Immelt and Virginia M. Rometty, are not attendees either. “I don’t go to Davos and places like that,” Mr. Immelt once said dismissively….

In the avoider camp is Mohamed A. El-Erian, the chief of Pimco, one of the largest bond investors in the world, and someone who given his background would seem like the perfect Davos man — an Egyptian-raised, Oxford-educated global investor. He has rejected repeated invitations to Davos, skeptical of the value of speed-dating with so many clients in the Alps.

“For me, it has been and remains an issue of efficient time management,” he told me in an email. “Our general preference is for more focused and less rushed meetings.” Mr. El-Erian is so anti-Davos he once wrote an article for a magazine distributed at the forum called “Why I Won’t Go to Davos….”

Others don’t go simply for practical reasons. “It’s inconvenient to get to. There’s a lot of friction. It’s cold. There are a lot of people there. The logistics of just going down the street can be very daunting,” John Kao, chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation and a longtime attendee, told Bloomberg News last year.

The WEF people did manage to turn one former hater, BlackRock chief Larry Fink, probably by placing him on equal footing with three major central bankers and the heads of the IMF and German finance ministry.

Mr. El-Erian’s rival, Laurence D. Fink, the chairman of BlackRock, which manages more than $4 trillion, had been a skeptic, too — until this year. With such a large global business, he has become almost a head of state himself or, more precisely, as important as the head of a central bank, judging by the panel he is speaking on. Mr. Fink is the only business executive on an economic panel that includes Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank; Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England; Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan; Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister; and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Notable in Their Absence From Davos [DealBook]

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  1. Posted by McKinsey | January 21, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    “..it’s a ridiculous display of ostentation and an enormous waste of time.”

    Oh, I didn't know we would be pitching new business at Davos.