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– Davos: 10 power brokers to watch at the World Economic Forum (Telegraph, Jan. 7, 2012):
In just two weeks’ time, global power brokers will meet in Switzerland in an attempt to pull the eurozone back from the brink of destruction.
Fur and finance, snow and supremacy: there are just two weeks to go before global leaders converge at the World Economic Forum’s annual jamboree in the Alpine resort of Davos.
Off the piste the heady mix of royalty, billionaire tycoons and top politicians are officially tasked with tackling “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models”.
Rarely has a conference title had more poignant urgency: the European Union leaders’ summit on the advancing debt crisis follows immediately on January 30. Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Christine Lagarde of the IMF and Mario Draghi, the boss of the European Central Bank (ECB), are among those most likely to spend the week crafting mechanisms to prevent the eurozone sliding off a precipice.
Crucial “periphery” eurozone leaders are also expected, including the embattled premiers of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Perhaps more usefully, Ireland is dispatching the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. David Cameron and his fellow European “outs” will be hovering around the talks, though they may find they have more time for skiing.
But there will be plenty of glamour to offset the gloom. Members of the Saudi royal family and the Crown Princess of Norway will weigh in alongside the billionaire business aristocracy that includes Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon; Ivan Glasenberg, flush from the Glencore float; and legendary investors George Soros, Louis Bacon and Daniel Och.
Corporate bosses from Vittorio Calao of Vodafone, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Marc Bolland of Marks & Spencer and Tom Albanese of Rio Tinto will rub shoulders with high-profile bankers including Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, Bob Diamond of Barclays and Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs. There will also be some fading stars like Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson.
But with all the dazzle of those who live in the limelight, it could be easy to miss the raft of global power brokers who may have had fewer headlines recently but are among the most influential. Here’s our list of the 10 to look out for.
Zhang Xiaoqiang – Vice-Chairman, National Development and Reform Commission, People’s Republic of China
The eurozone may be causing the loudest rumpus, but in 2012 the direction of the mighty Chinese economy will be arguably more important. Western leaders are relying on the Asian powerhouse to maintain demand for their exports, commodities and construction. But economists are warning about a dangerous credit bubble in China that, if it bursts, would make the eurozone problems look, well, piccolo.
As a senior director of the NDRC, Zhang Xiaoqiang will be making decisions this year that could make or break the global recovery. The NDRC sits directly below the Chinese State Council and has the giddy responsibility of overseeing domestic economic and social development as well as the new task of restructuring China’s financial system.
Born in 1952, Zhang Xiaoqiang is an economics graduate from Peking University and has worked in the civil service since 1969. For the past two decades he has specialised in international relations, specifically overseas investment, which has included a stint at the Chinese embassy in New York. He also sits on the board of the China Investment Corporation (CIC) which, with an estimated $500bn (£324bn) assets under management, is one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world.
Sheryl Sandberg – Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
As the youngest billionaire in the world, Mark Zuckerberg is the well-known face of Facebook. But his second-in-command, Sheryl Sandberg, has become just as important to the dominance – and commercial viability – of the social network phenomenon. Since arriving from Google in 2008, the chief operating officer is credited with increasing Facebook’s 70m users to more than 750m, roughly 11pc of the world’s population. She is overseeing the company’s plans for a flotation that could see it valued at around $100bn.
She’s highly connected politically, too. After her Harvard MBA, Sandberg served as chief of staff at the US Treasury Department under Bill Clinton. She went on to run Google’s online global sales operation. She’s also a campaigner for the empowerment of women – another big topic at Davos.
Sandberg will co-chair the Davos meeting alongside Alejandro Ramirez, chief executive of Cinepolis, a Mexican chain of cinemas that is now the biggest in Latin America and the fourth biggest in the world; Yasuchika Hasegawa, chief executive of Takeda Pharmaceutical, who was behind last year’s $13.7bn bid for Switzerland’s Nycomed – the second-largest Japanese overseas deal on record; Vikram Pandit, chief executive of Citigroup; Paul Polman, boss of Unilever, and Paul Voser, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.
Mohamed Bin Dhaen Al Hamli – Minister of Energy, United Arab Emirates
With the Strait of Hormuz under threat from Iran, energy security will be high on the Davos agenda and oil producers top of the A-list. As the man in charge of an estimated 2.9m barrels of production a day – set to increase to 5m by 2014 – Mr Al Hamli can expect to be popular. The father of seven children gained a qualification as a chartered accountant in the UK before spending most of his career with the Abu Dhabi national oil company.
After eight years on the board of OPEC, he has been a member of the UAE cabinet since 2004. He’s not the only oil man at Davos. Abdalla Salem El Badri, the Secretary-General of OPEC, is also on the list. Known as a tough-talking operator, he’s only too aware of his power at the head of a membership group that produces one trillion barrels of oil a day: he has warned the West to think carefully before considering any military strike on Iran.
Then there’s Diezani K. Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria. The country is the 11th largest oil producer in the world and a key supplier to the US – an even more vital position following the Arab Spring and disruption in Libya. Another key target for Western leaders at Davos will be Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and worth $22.6bn, and chairman of its most valuable company, Reliance Industries. Mr Ambani is of particular interest to the UK after striking a $7.2bn deal to sell a 30pc stake in 21 oilfields to BP.
José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo – Chief Executive of Petroleo Brasileiro
Perhaps it’s part of the warm-up for the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Rio Olympics, maybe it’s to celebrate its key status as a BRIC economy, but Brazil is putting on a big show at Davos this year. As well as hosting the glamorous soiree that closes the WEF Forum, Brazil is fielding top bosses from Petrobras, its biggest energy company. Head honcho José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo will lead the pack.
A state-owned monopoly until 1997, Petrobras is independent but, as the world’s third largest oil company producing 2.5m barrels of oil a day, the company keeps the country afloat. It operates in 29 countries around the world.
At home, it reaches far beyond energy and is the country’s largest sponsor of arts, culture and environmental protection. Mr Gabrielli is spearheading the company’s efforts to unlock the massive oil reserves in rock-salt, described as a potential game-changer for oil production and Brazil itself. He is a prolific writer and author of several articles and books on productive restructuring, labour market, macro-economics and regional development.
Azim Premji – Chairman, Wipro
Another top delegate from India, Azim Premji is the undisputed software king of the sub-continent. After completing an electrical engineering degree at Stanford University in America, he joined Wipro in the 1960s when it was a $2m cooking fat company. Since then he’s turned it into one of the biggest IT companies in the world, operating in 50 countries. In the meantime, he’s become India’s third richest man and is worth $13bn, although he apparently drove a Ford Escort until recently upgrading to a Toyota Corolla.
He’s a major philanthropist working for social change in India and elsewhere, largely through his eponymous university and foundation. As well as being on the usual lists of influential people in the world, he is frequently hailed as one of those with the most power to effect change.
Irene Rosenfeld – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kraft Foods
Here she is: the elusive boss of Kraft and a Davos regular. Irene Rosenfeld is best known in Britain as the boss who bought Cadbury, promised not to close any factories, closed one, and then refused MPs’ repeated requests to offer an explanation in front of a Parliamentary select committee. In private, however, few blamed her as the row over the takeover of the iconic company escalated into a political rather than commercial saga.
In her day job, Rosenfeld is a leader of the world’s second largest food maker and oversees 127,000 employees and sales in 170 countries. Through a series of acquisitions and restructurings, including Cadbury, Ms Rosenfeld was credited with increasing annual revenues to $49.2bn by 2010, a 43pc increase since she took the helm in 2006.
It might not sound familiar to British MPs but Ms Rosenfeld’s reply when asked about her brand of power was: “Servant leadership: I’m here to help the organisation accomplish its objectives rather than employees being here to meet my needs.” Not a bad mantra for the brave new financial system being designed at Davos.
Yuri Milner – Founder, Digital Sky Technologies
Entrepreneur and venture capitalist – and Russia’s only representative on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people. He founded Digital Sky Technologies and divided it into two tech investment firms, DST Global and Mail.ru Group. Through them he is a key investor in some of the best known tech companies in the world, including Zynga, Twitter, Spotify, ZocDoc and Groupon.
In 2009 he bought a $200m stake in Facebook, which is thought to have grown five-fold. He has said he wants to invest in every start-up that comes out of Silicon Valley-based incubator Y Combinator without even reading the business plan. Born in Moscow in 1961, Milner’s first ambition was to become a physicist. He read theoretical physics at Moscow University and went on to study under future Nobel Prize winner Vitaly Ginzburg at the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1990 he changed course and went to Wharton School of Business – the first non-exile from the Soviet Union to do so. He has told reporters he chose business over science after “being disappointed in myself as a physicist”.
He worked at the World Bank in Washington DC during the 1990s, which he has since said he regrets because of missing out on Boris Yeltsin’s privatisations that created today’s oligarchs. No matter, he’s managed to become just as rich – he bought a €100m (£82.4m) French chateau-style house in Silicon Valley last year – and probably more powerful.
Lubna Olayan – Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Olayan Financing Company
Ms Olayan’s position as one of the most influential businesswomen in the world is all the more impressive given that she comes from Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive themselves in a car, let alone direct a conglomerate. She was the first woman in Saudi history to deliver a keynote speech at a conference. That was in 2004.
Ms Olayan is the boss of OFC, the holding company of the Olayan Group, which was founded by her father in 1947. It is a multi-national company dealing in distribution, manufacturing, services and investments and is one of the biggest investors in Saudi Arabia and in the region, as well as abroad.
Ms Olayan’s talents have been spotted elsewhere. She’s a non-executive director of WPP, and sits on the international advisory boards of Rolls-Royce and Citigroup. She was also on the board of Chelfield, a UK property developer. She sits on the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.
Jim Leech – President and Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
Under Jim Leech, the Canadian pension fund, better known as Teachers, is considered one of the key investors in infrastructure assets in the world. With governments desperate to boost the economy with infrastructure projects, yet with little money to do it, Leech is on many leaders’ must-see list, including David Cameron’s.
The fund bought Camelot, the national lottery operator, for £400m in 2010 and it was also key investor in High Speed 1, the rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel. The Prime Minister and George Osborne have placed High Speed 2 and a raft of other infrastructure ambitions as a key plank in their growth plans. Leech’s cash is clearly important but his example to other pensions funds, particularly in Britain, to invest is highly valuable, too. Other sovereign wealth funds on the delegates list include Lim Siong-Guan, president of GIC, the Singaporean fund; Bader M. Al Sa’ad, managing director of the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA); and Scott Kalb, chief investment officer of the Korea Investment Corporation (KIC).
Sun Yafang – Chairman, Huawei Technologies
Don’t be deceived, she may be petite but Ms Sun is nicknamed “the market killer” for her prowess in the telecoms world. Her background is in research and development rather than electronics but even as chairman of the Chinese telecom equipment giant that claims to serve 45 of the 50 top global operators, she is a live wire.
Ms Sun is at the helm at a critical time: Ren Zhengfei, the company’s long-serving chief executive, sent out a memo at Christmas telling staff he would soon step down. Although his son is a contender, Ms Sun is favourite to take over.
Ms Sun is likely to be targeted by European leaders for another reason. At the end of last year, Huawei’s main board approved a plan for a major new “competence centre” that will serve as its R&D hub – not just for Europe but for its global organisation. More than 5,000 specialist engineering jobs are up for grabs and millions of pounds of investment over the next five years. A location has not yet been decided but the contenders are Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Sweden.