Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Mingling with millionaires and partying among politicians: My nights in Davos

By Nina dos Santos, CNN
updated 12:00 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN's Nina dos Santo was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
  • She interviewed business and political leaders and went to parties with millionaires
  • No trip's complete without the Piano Bar, where the atmosphere is inclusive

Editor's note: Nina dos Santos is a news anchor and correspondent based in London. She is the host of CNN International's twice-daily global business show World Business Today. Follow her on Twitter.

Davos (CNN) -- Day 1 - Wednesday: "Now you remember the rules, don't you?" cautions my colleague Richard Quest, a long time veteran of the prestigious World Economic Forum. "What happens in Davos, stays in Davos."

"And the Piano Bar," he continues, referring to the notorious late night haunt for the hardcore high-flyers. "Well, let's just call that a sort of no-man's land."

And so, armed with my crash course in elite etiquette and clutching a coveted, access-all-areas, white badge, I make my way to the lavish surroundings of the Steigenberger Belvedere Hotel -- the epicenter of the Swiss town's corporate party scene during "WEF week."

Doing business on ice in Davos

First stop, Steve Forbes' do, where the man himself is on "meet and greet" duty by the door with his children -- reinforcing the importance of family business.

IMF chief: Beware of global deflation

Inside: The very people who make his magazine's eponymous rich list a must-read.

After a chance encounter with one of those Forbes list stalwarts, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, at another Indian tycoon Niraj Bajaj's party downstairs, it's off a Jazz soiree, hosted by insurer Zurich, where Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard strikes a balanced note as CEO Martin Senn works the room.

Before calling it a night, I stop by Munich-based events firm DLD's do where I have a photograph with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the corridor.

On my way in I cross Nouriel Roubini -- aka Dr Doom -- who, judging by the smile on his face, seems remarkably unruffled by the bout of economic optimism at Davos this year.

"I'm so busy. So many meetings," he flaps before scuttling off to another nightcap and away from the comical Swiss mountain accordion band about to strike up in their folkloristic costumes.

Day 2 - Thursday: Two days of sobering talk on inequality, Iran and Syria certainly haven't sapped the mood.

If anything, with 40 heads of state and government now gathered in Davos, the captains of industry have even more swagger, hobnobbing with the creme de la creme of G-20 politicians.

After picking the brains of Russia's deputy Prime Minister on Sochi's security during an ice hockey game he was participating in in the Davos arena, it's time to shed the snow boots and dress to impress.

At drinks laid on by CNBC and the Financial Times, I spot former EU Trade Commissioner and one-time New Labour spin doctor, Peter Mandelson rubbing shoulders with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. The latter is smiling broadly, a day before the world learns of his $20 million salary for 2013.

"What's been your highlight of Davos this year?" I ask another senior banker. My mouth falls open when he, in all seriousness, replies "the new Intercontinental. At least we have a decent hotel to stay in with a proper shower."

"And the sessions?" I venture. "Oh no we never go to any of those," he chuckles.

Day 3 - Friday: Russia's Farewell party brings the usual clutch of glamorous girls and moneyed men. The band is brilliant even if, as a non-Russian speaker, I can't understand a word of what they are singing.

The champagne flows fast, as if it's as plentiful as the nation's oil and gas, while the cloakroom fills up with some of the most ostentatious fur coats I have ever seen.

Power dressing for Davos

Carl Bildt and his MEP wife cut dashing figures as they head towards the bar. I deduce the Swedish foreign secretary must be the most sociable politician present at Davos this year for I have run into him at no fewer than five evening events already.

Rutte: Economy is picking up in 2014

Next, it's off to McKinsey & Co's bash where Standard Chartered's Peter Sands is mingling among the crowd unaccompanied after his firm's sudden management reshuffle last week.

Barroso: Ukraine situation unacceptable

Networking doyenne Carole Stone is in fine form and -- in the absence of any Google glasses- - is game enough to have her picture taken wearing pair of the joke neon ones handed out.

Having recently collected a $1.3 million windfall from the sale of her business, Stone has shunned the usual extravagances afforded to most Davos millionaires and informs me she's moving back into the Covent Garden bolt hole where her business originally began.

Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett and Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group gather for a group photo and everyone bids the bar goodbye.

Day 4 - Saturday: Davos goes out with a bang as more than a thousand guests gather for a black tie dinner.

En-route to the venue I'm lucky enough to share a shuttle with an upbeat Avie Glazer, the American chairman of Manchester United, who expresses concern about wage inflation in the market for Premiere League players today.

John Kerry's fiery Davos speech seems to have been the talk of the town among four young American biotech entrepreneurs I dine with, each of which it turns out has floated their firm on the Nasdaq this year while markets enjoy all time records.

Among other notable movers and shakers: The former head of the UK financial services authority Adair Turner and Columbia University's Spanish economics guru Xavier Sala-i-Martin.

As I ready to leave, I remember no trip to this alpine enclave would be complete without catching CNN's own Emerging Markets editor John Defterios striking up a natty tune at the altogether more inclusive atmosphere of the Hotel Europa's "Piano Bar."

I'm just in time, as it turns out, to catch the crowd singing along to Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69."

Boy, I think, things must have changed since then, before the World Economic Forum rolled into this pleasant little place.

READ MORE:

Quest's selfie challenge

Goldie Hawn on 'mindfulness'

Are shareholders kiss of death?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:14 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
The World Economic Forum in Davos was a missed opportunity to start real dialogue and must change if it is to stay relevant, argues Richard Quest
updated 12:00 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
Nina dos Santos was in Davos interviewing world leaders by day, mingling at the parties of millionaires by night. So what are they really like?
updated 4:02 AM EST, Tue January 28, 2014
The World Economic Forum usually attracts protesters but this year's were very quiet. So why were they there?
updated 9:19 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
IMF chief Christine Lagarde says governments should beware of the global deflation genie coming out of its bottle.
updated 6:36 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
A relentless quest for share price boosts can result in disastrous long-term results, writes Andre Spicer.
updated 12:53 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Actress Goldie Hawn says CEOs are discovering how to cope with stress and make better decisions .
updated 5:07 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon about the progress being made in establishing Syrian peace.
updated 11:58 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
selfie Richard Quest
Selfie is the word du jour and CNN's Richard Quest set himself a selfie challenge, but which VIPs agreed to pose?
updated 4:31 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Israel's President points a finger at Iran over the carnage in Syria, due to support for Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
updated 2:55 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim calls for a concerted global effort to help Syria's refugees, saying the response so far has been inadequate.
updated 5:06 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu about why cyber security is so important to the Israeli economy.
Think you're paid what you're worth? Explore how your wage compares to the average in your country, then see where you sit globally.
updated 5:25 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick about the lack of a crisis at Davos 2014.
updated 5:13 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to the OECD's Angel Gurria on how inequality and lack of economic growth are tied together.
updated 2:10 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
It's town of cuckoo clocks, $20 pasta and very slippery pavements -- tread carefully, warns first-timer Chris Pepper.
updated 2:20 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Nina dos Santos speaks to former U.S. Treasury Sec. Larry Summers who says public sector investment should be encouraged.
updated 4:49 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Almost 40 years and trillions worth of GDP after Mao, an entire generation still has little idea of what kind of nation to strive for, writes Damien Ma.
updated 10:18 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
CNN anchors Richard Quest and Nina dos Santos disagree as to whether this meeting of power players can make a difference to global inequality.
updated 12:17 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
The crisis in Syria was front and center for the movers and shakers as Davos formally got underway.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Richard Quest heads to Davos, where everyone, it seems, has an event they want him to attend. Read his view of the parties.
updated 5:04 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to European Commission Pres. Jose Manuel Barroso about what can be done about the Ukrainian protests.
updated 3:18 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Egypt has entrusted its democracy to the army, the police, a disempowered political class, writes Aalam Wassef.
Answer 4 questions to tell us if your mood is up or down, and see how others are responding.
updated 6:01 PM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Speaking at the WEF in Davos, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said that by 2020 women occupy 30% of leadership positions.
updated 10:46 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Norway's Crown Prince Haakon says it is dangerous not to let youth help reshape the world, as they have the resources to act.
updated 10:03 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Three years after the Arab Spring, its issues are back on the agenda and Syrian peace talks have begun. A Tunisian writer says little has changed.
updated 2:15 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Ostentation-adverse Pope Francis has some serious cards to lay on the table in the game of global economic reform, writes John Allen.
updated 12:58 PM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
The World Economic Forum is not just a global gabfest. History is often made there, as Nina Dos Santos reports.
updated 7:51 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
We need to invest in human capital to combat a predatory capitalist system, argues Anne-Marie Slaughter.
updated 8:04 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
today's emerging markets can be divided into the tortoises and hares, CNN's John Defterios writes. But which will win 2014?
updated 5:30 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares talks to chef Alexandre Kroll about the challenges of cooking for the world's financial leaders in Davos.
updated 6:59 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
Why would a young person with a job, or in education, or training, want to riot and loot, when they have a stake in the future?
updated 2:29 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
The small Swiss town of Davos readies for its annual onslaught of world leaders and power players.
updated 10:52 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest says growing income inequality will be high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum.
updated 6:15 AM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest ponders whether he's climbing a Swiss mountain to learn the meaning of "heterarchy."
updated 7:14 AM EST, Sun January 19, 2014
What will business leaders, heads of government, entrepreneurs and celebrities discuss in Davos?
updated 12:26 PM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
Davos is invitation-only, but even if you made the cut, could you afford the entry fee? And once there, what do you need to do to fit in?
ADVERTISEMENT