Heard in Davos 2009: Dispatches from the Conference

Red Carpets and The Man in Black


As the working day winds down, the coffee jitters start at the Congress Center and the jokes come out as people try to blow off some steam.

After lugging his rolling suitcase down the steps to the downstairs gathering area at the Center, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia made a bee line for former Fed governor Alan Blinder and Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg.

"You're all in black," Almunia said, looking at Borg's outfit (more on this later). "Does this reflect your mood?"

"They told us to be casual," Borg replied.

Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg brings cool to Davos.

But maybe it was the right color for the mood after all. Both Blinder and Borg agree "we're going down." Borg added that Sweden is now facing U.S.-like unemployment, something his country has mainly avoided.

As for Borg, he is quite simply the hippest finance minister in Davos and likely the world. His all-black Johnny Cash outfit of black sport coat, black shirt (no tie), black jeans and black boots was punctuated by a pony tail, wide-rimmed glasses and a gold earring.

If he doesn't play weekend in a band called Stimu Lust Package—or something similar—that needs to be remedied.

What Designer Are You Wearing at Davos?

Adjacent to the VIP-only entrance to the main session hall, there is a room that leads to a roped-off area that in turn leads to another exclusive location.

This is Davos' own red carpet. After an especially big-name session ends, the bodyguards start creating a perimeter—more with their presence than the ropes, which are the same things that lead you to check-in at the airport.

The cameras and reporters, and even a few fans, line up against the ropes and wait for the door to open, when flashbulbs go off and questions are shouted—or not.

Like a movie premier where you don't know who's coming out of the limo, it can be a let down. There are actually audible groans when it's not someone expected.

Deutsche Bank's Josef Ackermann must have felt a bit like Paul Giamatti, given the Leo DiCaprio-like reaction given to EU President Jose Manuel Barroso. (Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt arrived to little fanfare, but then he may be used to it standing next to Anders Borg all the time).

Curiously all the red-carpet expectation allowed Al Gore to slip behind the press line almost unnoticed. He paused only briefly to sign an autograph with a nice inscription for someone's father-in-law.

But then he has an Oscar.