The World's Most Important Person Isn't at Davos

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Conversations at Davos typically focus on the thousands of wealthy and powerful folks who trek to the Alps every January for the World Economic Forum. This year, much of the chatter is about a man who won’t be making the trip: Mario Draghi.

Call him the ghost of Davos 2015. Draghi is skipping the forum for the first time since he became president of the European Central Bank in 2011, and with good reason. The bank is poised to embark on broad-based government bond purchases, expected to be announced Thursday, and an appearance at Davos might invite a slew of inquiries about his intentions.

“Draghi is the most important person in the world at the moment,” said HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Douglas Flint. Former Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, when asked whom he’d most like to speak with this week, quickly shot back: “Of course Draghi!”

And if the Italian can’t make it? Anyone from the ECB’s executive board would do, Borg said. He’ll have to get in line. Only one member of the six-person board, Benoit Coeure, is scheduled to show up this year. And there’s little doubt that the Frenchman’s schedule will be plenty busy after the bank’s Jan. 22 decision.

-Stefan Riecher

Billionaire Backup

You can barely swing a ski pole in Davos this week without hitting a billionaire. Among the 2,500 business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum are at least 100 people with $1 billion-plus to their name -- and they were in ample supply at the Conference Center today.

As Indian auto manufacturer Rahul Bajaj checked his mobile phone, PC pioneer Michael Dell made his way up the stairs toward a session on energy while telecommunications tycoon Sunil Mittal headed into the coffee lounge.

Just inside the door of the lounge, by the pitchers of orange juice, Florida investor Jeff Greene stood chatting about his next session. Near the coffee service, Israeli shipping magnate (and art collector) Eyal Ofer appeared deep in conversation with a group of delegates.

-Matthew G. Miller

Davos Agit-Prop

Davos Man may be obsessed with ideas, but he’s also got a dominant streak of confidence in his ability to make the planet a better place. At a panel on the global economy, David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity giant Carlyle Group LP, declared that “private equity is the solution to all problems in the world.”

His optimism about the redemptive power of private equity had apparently put Rubenstein in high spirits. When he spotted a newspaper with a photo of Draghi, Rubenstein turned to fellow panelist Axel Weber -- a former Bundesbank chief who had been viewed as a candidate to run the ECB -- and quipped “That could have been your picture.” Weber, now chairman of Swiss bank UBS Group AG, mumbled a response that couldn’t be heard, but seemed to have few regrets about his switch to the private sector.

-Simon Kennedy

Poetic Jousting

Andrea Bocelli may be best known for his silky renditions of classic operatic arias, but at a meeting of Italian business leaders he turned to poetry to score a few points against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a Davos first-timer. The two bantered about their rival Tuscan hometowns: Pisa for Bocelli, and for Renzi the slightly less chaotic pleasures of the old Roman outpost of Lucca.

Bocelli trotted out a few couplets from Giosue Carducci, a Nobel laureate in 1906. Though the poet is a Lucca native, the poem Bocelli chose recounts a battle in which the Pisans pummeled their Lucchesi enemies.

Renzi, a former mayor of Florence, later invoked a better known local scribe when faced with a barrage of queries he deemed too serious for the late hour: Any more questions on the ECB or the Greek elections, and he threatened to launch into a recital of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

-Francine Lacqua and Elisa Martinuzzi