It began as a mountaintop get-together for industry titans and politicos to discuss the fate of the world, perched both literally and figuratively above the plebs below.
But how do you get billionaires and presidents to take a week out of their busy schedules to ascend a mountain in below-freezing winter temperatures?
Celebrities — that’s how.
The promise of running into a vogue leader, Oscar-winning actor or heartthrob pop star at a signature Davos nightcap is a key ingredient of the secret recipe that gets execs to hand over six-figure sums to attend the annual Alpine shindig.
Of course, there are celebrities — and then there are Davos celebrities. Who’s the hottest star at this year’s WEF: Sting or will.i.am? Trick question — it’s Sam Altman!
Here are the Davos desirables, whose RSVPs can make an event.
1. OpenAI boss Sam Altman
After emerging victorious from a bruising boardroom battle that both astonished and amused bigwig business types, 38-year-old wunderkind Sam Altman is doing his victory lap at this year’s WEF.
Altman’s got the Davos Midas touch — every panel he’s on turns to gold. But we’ve got some bad news for those hoping to get an insider take on the boardroom melodrama that went down at the developer of ChatGPT last year: Altman has doggedly resisted spilling the tea on the power struggle that saw him briefly kicked out of the company he helped found. He mused: “Is really what you want to spend our time on, like, the soap opera rather than what AGI [artificial general intelligence] is going to do?” Yeah Sam, obviously!
2. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
A truth universally acknowledged is that Marc Benioff throws the best Davos dos — bursting with celebrities, top-shelf executives and political party animals. So how does one secure a much-coveted golden ticket to a Salesforce party? You gotta buddy up with the boss — making Benioff a lightening rod wherever he goes. Plus, the man knows how to get down and boogie. Apparently.
3. Musician will.i.am
If you throw a party in Davos and will.i.am doesn’t come, did it even happen? That’s the eternal question being pondered by those unlucky sods who must content themselves with a Wyclef Jean or (whisper it) Yo-Yo Ma cameo instead. The founder and president of the i.am Angel Foundation, which aims to deliver STEAM education for at-risk youth, is the man born William James Adams Jr., of Black Eyed Peas fame. He is also a longtime WEF attendee and recipient of its 2016 Crystal Award for artists who embody the “spirit of Davos.”
4. Actress Michelle Yeoh
This year’s Davos darling is Michelle Yeoh, the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” ass-kicker who burst back into the collective psyche with her groundbreaking Oscar-winning turn in the sci-fi action hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Yeoh is in Davos to accept her own WEF Crystal Award — and to lend some star power to the top parties in town.
5. French President Emmanuel Macron
In the absence of a U.S. president, British prime minister or German chancellor, Emmanuel Macron was probably the top-level head of state (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy aside, perhaps) to jet into Davos — making any event he spoke at an instant success.
6. Swiss President Viola Amherd
We know what you’re thinking … but hear us out! The president of Switzerland may be an unorthodox choice for this list; however, she earned her spot by managing to get caught in the middle of a Washington-Beijing power struggle.
As POLITICO’s Global Playbook revealed earlier this week, after Chinese Premier Li Qiang secured a meeting with Amherd on the sidelines of Davos, the U.S. State Department was desperate to get its own face-saving catch-up for its Secretary of State Antony Blinken. That they did — allowing Washington to look like it had not lost any ground to Beijing when it comes to the notoriously neutral Swiss.
7. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
A Davos fixture and renowned party host, Jamie Dimon (who no doubt has a spring in his step this year after JPMorgan reported its best-ever annual profit) is as popular on a panel as he is at a party.
Unlike some other top-level corporate bosses (who shall remain nameless) spouting WEF pronouncements more prosaic than profound, Dimon likes to use his time in the spotlight to tell it like it is — and make news. This week, he called bitcoin a “pet rock” that does nothing but aid fraudsters and money launderers, and “is going to be erased.” Fun!
8. UK Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves
It’s true that Rachel Reeves is merely a member of the opposition in United Kingdom politics. But for the discerning Davos-goer, she’s looking an awful lot like a key figure in a likely next British government, under center-left Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. That makes Reeves a hot commodity on the mountain, as business and political leaders jostle for face time with the presumed next treasurer of the U.K.
So impressive is the former under-13 British chess champion, she has managed to win glowing endorsements from highly unlikely places. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, for instance, gave Reeves the ultimate compliment from an Iowa Republican, calling her policies “very Reaganesque.”
9. Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio
The founder of the world’s largest hedge fund is a longtime Davos-goer — and there’s no doubting the 74-year-old billionaire investor still draws a crowd at whatever panel he graces with his presence. He’s also a known history buff, having devoted himself to studying the last 500 years to help uncover patterns that lead to economic swings — making for some interesting talking points.
10. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands
What’s Davos without a posse of royals to lend a touch of class to an evening soiree or fireside chat? In years past, WEF has previously drawn in Prince William and his dad, some bloke called Charles III (get well soon, your maj!). In 2024, attendees are getting to hobnob with the ultra-glamorous queen of the Netherlands. Máxima’s in town in her capacity as the United Nation’s special advocate for development finance.
11. Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde
We can’t mention Máxima without giving a hat tip to King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, who are also in Davos this year, rubbing shoulders with guests including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at Belgium House. Queen Mathilde brought some much-appreciated pulling power to a “mental health/mental wealth” roundtable discussion earlier this week, too.
Bono used to be the belle of the Davos ball; this year, it’s Sting. The legendary Police front man has been out in force at Davos this year, headlining the exclusive Salesforce do and cropping up at some of the WEF’s other best parties (at one point even passing an Oscar statuette around the table to Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne!).
13. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau — aka GoT’s Jaime Lannister
Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau may not exactly be a household name — but his “Game of Thrones” character Jaime Lannister sure is. Coster-Waldau has been a UNDP goodwill ambassador since 2016, traveling to the Peruvian Amazon in 2019 to raise awareness about devastating wildfires there. He’s at far-off kingdom
Winterfell Davos this year to rub shoulders with the great and good at the Bloomberg House.
Suzanne Lynch, Seb Starcevic, Dionisios Sturis and Peter Snowdon contributed reporting.