Billionaires Heading to Davos Reflect Changed World Order

Noticeably absent from this year’s World Economic Forum will be the Russian tycoons who were once a fixture at the annual capitalist confab.

It wasn’t so long ago that Russian billionaires were a fixture at Davos, as commonplace as Moncler puffer coats.

This year there are zero. Russia’s ostracization by the West after its invasion of Ukraine has effectively banished the oligarchs from the annual confab of capitalist elites. 

After two years of pandemic disruption, the World Economic Forum is back in its wintry Alpine setting, running from Jan. 16-20. But the makeup of the billionaire guest list is decidedly different, reflecting the global upheaval that’s reshaped fortunes and shifted centers of power amid war, disease and surging inflation. 

There are roughly 116 billionaires registered to attend this year’s event, 40% more than a decade ago. In addition to the absent Russians, there are none from China this year, with the nation still reeling from a spike in Covid cases and swooning stock market that erased $224 billion from the fortunes of the country’s richest people in 2022. 

Helping fill the void is an upsurge in the number of billionaires hailing from the Gulf, a region with newfound swagger thanks to rising oil prices and a reputation as a pocket of relative stability in a fractious area. 

India, a consistently big presence in Davos in prior years, has 13 billionaires attending, including coal magnate-turned-diversified industrialist Gautam Adani, whose wealth soared by $44 billion last year. He’s currently the fourth-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Almost a third of all the Filipinos attending lay claim to 10-digit fortunes. 

Americans, as usual, form the largest group, with 33 billionaires set to attend, including corporate titans who skipped last year’s event, which was postponed to May. Wall Street in particular will be well-represented, with JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, BlackRock Inc.’s Larry Fink and Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone Inc. among those on the guest list.

Despite their proximity to the Swiss ski resort, just 18 European billionaires are registered to go. The only ones attending from recession-hit UK are actually Indian: London-based Lakshmi Mittal of steel giant ArcelorMittal and his children. 

The total count would be higher were it not for the world’s tumbling markets. For example, Gong Yingying, founder of medical data platform Yidu Tech Inc., minted a billion-dollar fortune with a public offering at the height of Covid in 2021. The company’s shares have fallen 90% since.