When Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, spotted White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, his ex-Sachs deputy, standing above him on a balcony at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he threw up his hands and called out “Juliet” — mimicking the scene from Shakespeare’s famous play.
Blankfein wasn’t the only big-name billionaire at President Donald Trump’s reception for business leaders at the World Economic Forum. This was a proper billionaires’ fest.
One after another, titans of finance, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and captains of industry rolled through the security cordon outside the fête, keeping scores of gawkers at bay.
To give you the gist of it, I’ll only list a few: Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund ( worth $17 billion), Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group (worth $13.4 billion) and Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies ( worth $24.9 billion). There were plenty of foreigners with deep pockets too, including Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man at $13.9 billon.
I’ve seen a lot of double-digit billionaires over the years, but even I was impressed at the sheer concentration of wealth. And then, suddenly, everyone raised their phones. Mr. Trump was making an impromptu speech before joining the business leaders. I videotaped it for you:
“We want great prosperity, and we want great peace,” Trump said. “And I think that really is the message. It’s been going really well. A lot of people have been coming back to the United States. We are seeing tremendous investment, and today has been a very exciting day and a great day for our country.”
With that, the president smiled, waved and made his way toward the reception – ignoring a reporter asking him to respond to the criticism that he was rubbing elbows with the elite.
After the meeting was over, I caught up with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. (For the record, Forbes says Ross is not a billionaire and alleges he lied to them about his net worth the year before.)
Ross described Trump’s audience at the reception as a “warm and friendly group, mostly Fortune 500 companies and some members of Congress.” He predicted that Trump would deliver “a great speech,” referring to his formal speech at the World Economic Forum, which is slated for Friday at 2 p.m., local time.
I also asked Ross about the reports the president had distanced himself from him and no longer trusted him.
“All you have to do is ask the people in the room just now what he said about me. He said some very nice things,” Ross said.
We’ll find out more tomorrow how other leaders react to the president’s economic vision when he addresses the delegates.