Jeremy Warner: In downbeat Davos, the happy capitalist is hard to find
Thursday 29 January 2009
Outlook If you want to cheer yourself up amidst all the economic gloom and doom, visit the World Economic Forum annual meeting here in Davos, where the mood is one of unrelenting "can do" optimism, as you would expectof business leaders for whom no challenge is too great.
Only kidding. In all the years I've been coming to these annualgatherings of the global business elite, I've never known the mood to be more downbeat, or confidence so deflated. Global capitalism was meant to have all the solutions.
This year, business leaders and bankers are left forlornly wondering what more governments can do to bail them out.
I've trawled the corridors, and the mood is grim, grim, grim. Things will return to normal eventually, but what will that new normality look like?
In the meantime it's a struggle just to stay afloat. Even the perennially upbeat Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the advertising and marketing giant WPP, struggles to find much to be positive about.
This year is a wipe-out, he reckons, reflecting the prevailing consensus, while any recovery in 2010 will be at best anaemic. Compared with the predictions of some, this counts as almost Panglossian.
When I say it's hard to find apositive voice, there are a few who claim to like it as it is.
Here in Davos, there are the haves and have-nots – those with continued access to finance and those without it. For the haves, a bargain-basement sale of the century of distressed corporate and financial assets awaits.
Include in that category Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the US-based private equity house The Blackstone Group, and the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Murdoch, one of the co-chairmen of this year's event, is said to bepositively salivating at the thought of the choice media assets he may be able to pick up for next to nothing over the next year.
For the lucky few, there will always be opportunity in crisis.
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