Chief executives make their Davos excuses

Here I am in Davos and where is everyone else?

A lot of chief executives have signed up for the World Economic Forum but seem to be getting cold feet, so to speak, at the last minute. Today, we learned that Bob Diamond, president of Barclays, will not attend after all.

Mr Diamond joins a number of investment banks in heavily slimming down their presence here. Goldman has cancelled its usual party and Lloyd Blankfein, its chairman and chief executive, is staying at home.

Meanwhile, I have turned up for PwC’s annual press conference at the Belvedere hotel to discuss its survey of CEO confidence (yes, it is very low this year). But Sam DiPiazza, PwC’s global CEO, who usually presides over the event, is nowhere to be seen.

The PwC partners who took his place for the event just explained that he is in India on business and hopes to arrive in Davos by the end of the week.

It does make sense that bankers, who face intense pressure on their share prices and liquidity, do not feel they can spare the time at the moment.

They are probably also afraid of the curse of Davos – that any CEO whose business is under pressure risks looking like he or she is swanning around by spending time up a Swiss mountain discussing the environment etc.

It is not just investors or the general public who might be irritated this year – the governments and regulators that have put money into banks will probably want to see executives buckling down in the office.

I wonder who else among business leaders will drop out as the week goes on? It is snowing, by the way, and the mountains look beautiful.

John Gapper is the FT’s chief business commentator

Davos blog 2009

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