Forget the fondue.
Caviar, magic mushrooms, gold-leaf desserts, A-list selfies, $2,500-per-night hookers and secret dinners are likely to be on the menu as scores of private jets touch down in Switzerland as soon as Sunday to bring the world’s elite to the small Alpine resort town of Davos for what’s officially known as The World Economic Forum 2024.
More than 3000 masters of the universe are expected to show up for the 54th annual event at the Alpine resort nestled in the snowy Landwasser valley. The theme this year is “Rebuilding Trust.”
“You can almost smell the magic of the place when you’re there,” a well-connected Davos regular told The Post.
“Everyone’s got an agenda and you never know who you’re going to run into when you come out of the restroom. It could be Bill Gates.
“You’re around some of the smartest people in the world but one thing you learn is that they’re not always so smart.”
WEF head Klaus Schwab, while portrayed as a real life Dr. Evil in far-right circles, is probably more of a high-rent PT Barnum than sinister global conspiracist.
Last year Vanity Fair pointed out that Schwab “developed the Forum from an earnest meeting of policy wonks into a glittering assembly of the world’s richest people. He has achieved this by ingratiating himself with those who wield power, and especially the billionaire class — a tribe known as Davos Man.”
Not all Davos Men — or women — are created equal though: there’s a caste system that separates the merely connected from the apex of the elite.
Everyone has to wear a colored badge with their full name on it at all times, and the color is an instant way of judging their importance. (The real flex — being so famous you hide the badge.)
White badges are the most expensive accreditation, but also available only to the very top tier business leaders.
Being a CEO is not enough: your company must be a household name, or at least a household name in the biggest boardrooms.
“If you look up namedropping in the dictionary you’ll see a photo of Davos,” Skybridge Capital founder and chairman Anthony Scaramucci, who’s attended Davos since 2007, told The Post.
“But you know what? I’ve never left the mountain without learning something important or making a new friend.”
Other more lowly badges, in a rainbow of colors, are given to the white badgeholders’ entourages; to less important CEOs and non-profit bosses; to the media; to WEF staff; and to the legions of staff who cater to their needs.
Political heavyweights like Chinese Premier Li Qiang; French president Emmanuel Macron; Secretary of State Antony Blinken; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; and Pres. Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry will be jostling for invitations to the best cocktail parties along this year.
So too will OpenAI CEO Sam Altman; Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy; newly-elected Argentinian president Javier Milei; supermodel Naomi Campbell; the World Health Organization’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization; and Tirana Hassan of Human Rights Watch.
Though past and present Davos attendees like to talk about the enriching “policy discussions” at the snowy conference, the real A-listers vie for the best discreet cocktail parties and private dinners with top CEOs — then hit the dance floor with Salesforce CEO. Marc Benioff.
Angling to get into the hottest CEO dinners is an annual ritual, but for private dinner organizers, the headache is getting the hottest corporate guests, who this year will be JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Altman, to attend.
The badges help set the scene for the evening.
For most, nighttime brings crowded cocktail parties where lavish canapés, some flecked with caviar, are served with champagne, and there are lines for selfies with A-listers that have included everyone from Matt Damon to Priyanka Chopra over the years — but where attendees stay on their feet, and likely have to listen to a speech from one of the organizations hosting it.
Both private dining and cocktail scenes can converge at private performances by world-famous artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Chris Martin of Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas.
Nile Rodgers, Will.i.am and Cool and Dre are expected to perform this year.
Once it was Marissa Mayer of Yahoo who hosted the biggest names, but now it is Benioff who books the acts — and like Mayer he is an enthusiastic participant on the dance floor.
Scaramucci is once again hosting his wine “soirée,” this time at the Hotel Europe.
His wine list features relatively economical $260-a-bottle Laurent-Perrier No. 26 Grand Siècle champagne for bubbles fans, but hits the high notes with $802-a-bottle Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2005 from Burgundy and from Bordeaux, the 2003 Chateau Latour, Pauillac, which retails at $995 a bottle.
Matt Damon, Goldie Hawn, Richard Branson, Andrea Bocelli and now-First Lady Jill Biden have been among the boldfaced-names at Scaramucci’s past parties but he said he doesn’t know until the last minute who’ll be showing up.
Scaramucci said he still hasn’t heard any details about whether Dimon is having his own event. “I wouldn’t make that list anyway!!” he said.
Last year Scaramucci had competition from more exotic substances, with a psychedelics company offering micro-doses of magic mushrooms to delegates and talks from Deepak Chopra. It is not returning this year.
Of course, the specter of Jeffrey Epstein also hangs over Davos, as it has done for years. This year JP Morgan star banker Mary Erdoes is expected.
She dealt with Epstein after he was first convicted, was alerted to suspicious activity by him at least six times but even sought tax advice from him. Campbell has her own Epstein connection; she was named in the recent drop of unsealed documents about the late, disgraced financier.
“There’s always been a slight dark side to Davos,” said another Davos attendee who has gone to the conference two times in recent years. “You know what they say about world leaders and top CEOs being psychopaths.”
In 2016, for instance, former Tradeshift CEO Christian Langg, then 45, who was fired last year for allegedly having his assistant sign a “slave contract,” posed for a photo with actor Kevin Spacey. The alleged victim later accused Langg of torturing her even while the two were at Davos. He denies the allegations.
“”More back-slapping from the metropolitan elites who brought you wars, a cost of living crisis, woke-obsession and public services that no longer work,” the group snarled in an text to The Post.
“Once again those who think themselves the great and the good meet in Davos to discuss how they might make the world more businesslike, while ignoring the problems that real people face in supporting their families, in coping with the fear of world conflict, and in giving their children a better life… They offer the world nothing that will improve it.”
Indeed, aside from some deal-making, it’s hard to say what concrete achievements come out of Davos.
“That’s above my pay-grade,” said one longtime observer.