Clinton Gathering Trumps Davos

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The World Economic Forum at Davos has lost its cache of a few years. It was hurt badly by the recession. CEOs were reluctant to be seen flying their private jets to Switzerland to rub shoulders with world leaders and celebrities.

It turns out the American senior executives that find the conference useful can attend one closer to home. It is the Clinton Global Initiative gathering. According to new research by public relations firm Weber Shandwick, CEOs from Fortune’s “Most Admired” companies prefer the Chief Executive Officers Club of Boston meeting and WSJ CEO Council to Davos.

It is not clear whether American CEOs prefer American-based conferences to Davos for PR reasons or utility. Davos has become a mad house over the last several years with pundits, politicians, artists, and economists there to join CEOs to discuss the world’s economic problems. The event may simply have become so cluttered with irrelevant people and off-beat agendas that it is a waste of time for US CEOs.

The Clinton meeting may be more attractive for a number of reasons. The first is that the gathering has a partial focus on charitable aid to solve world problems, problems that Bill Clinton is involved in addressing. The other is that the Clinton meeting is more restricted to a review of global economic and financial problems and less to the agendas of world leaders and famous people. Clinton’s meeting also benefits from the prestige of being run by a former President.

The reasons for the success of the WSJ and Fortune magazine events, which are both among the top five events based on CEO participation, is that these meetings are run by media which have little interest in topics beyond the core issues of the economy and financial matters. That is the focus of their editorial content, and guarantees to some extent that the time spent at these media-sponsored programs will not head off on tangents.

Davos is no longer the prefered destination for US CEO who want to discuss weighty issues which takes something away from its value for other participants.

Douglas A. McIntyre