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Robert De Niro headlines list of Davos no-shows

With so many presidents, prime ministers, and billionaires in one place all jostling for the spotlight, it may be more interesting to note who did not turn up at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

The Egyptian Trade Minister was one absentee, for understandable reasons. Violent protest against President Hosni Mubarak is mounting fast, his government is creaking and faces the possibility of collapse. Since the riots were partly sparked by high food prices, the Trade Minister clearly felt it would be wise to forgo the canapés and champagne of Davos. Instead he stayed back home in Cairo, where police are serving up a menu of water cannons and rubber bullets.

Rupert Murdoch was another no-show in the Swiss ski resort. The media tycoon was slated to attend, but he's also fighting fires. The boss of News Corp is stuck in London battling to control A full-blown scandal about phone-hacking at one of his best-selling tabloid papers, The News of the World. It threatens one of the biggest deals of Murdoch's business life. He is trying to take full control of the hugely profitable BSkyB - Britain's main satellite T.V. service. The government is on the brink of deciding whether or not to refer the bid to Britain's anti-trust regulator.

Right now Murdoch needs a climate of trust and goodwill. Instead, he faces a media frenzy, a political furor, a raft of lawsuits... oh, and a police investigation. On the whole he would surely prefer to be backslapping with fellow billionaires in Davos.

Senior members of the Chinese government also failed to turn up at Davos. The Chinese sent their largest ever delegation to the Forum, but no heavy hitters. And certainly no-one with the same clout as the head of the U.S. delegation, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. A calculated snub by the new economic superpower on the block? Or a result of the upcoming Chinese New Year?

The biggest no-show of all in Davos - and for many the most disappointing - was the non-appearance of movie-star Robert de Niro. He was supposed to provide a bit of glamor and glitz - and, rather puzzlingly, pick up some sort of humanitarian award for "artists who have used their art to improve the state of the world."

De Niro did not materialize. But since his last appearance at an awards ceremony (the Golden Globes) was described by one critic as "somewhat offensive," perhaps it's just as well.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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