As the global economy experiences sharp, systematic and, in some cases, excruciatingly painful contractions; corporate executives, heads of state and world “elders” met in secret at the weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland to make sense of a new economic landscape born to a ruling class totally unprepared for such a crisis.

The meeting, known as a gathering of the Bilderberg Group has taken place annually since 1954, receiving it’s name from the hotel where the first conference was held in the Netherlands 57 years ago. The group has emerged from the darkness in recent years as news media begin to report on the existence of the event and the leaking of attendee lists online.

…safe in the knowledge nothing goes beyond the walls of their plush meeting room in the Swiss mountains…

From what little is known about the group, the aim of the meeting is to provide a forum for Western European and American political and commercial leaders to discuss the problems of the world in an informal setting with a free exchange of views, safe in the knowledge nothing goes beyond the walls of their plush meeting room in the Swiss mountains.

Although the group has no official members and the list of attendees varies from year to year, the event is strictly invite only and organised by a steering group set up by the original attendees in 1954, but which has evolved over the years.

This year, for the first time ever; an official, yet partial (some Bilderbergers request complete anonymity) list of attendees has been published and a media centre has also been set up near the venue to accommodate the world’s media, intrigued by the nature of the gathering and searching for scraps of information about the goings on behind closed doors to feed a hungry public.

…”I don’t have to tell you, and you don’t need to know.”

Of course, for a meeting of such a motley crew of the elite (reminiscent of the Freemasons), you’d expect a stellar guest list and the 2011 list of attendees does not disappoint.

To provide a snapshot of the global wealth represented at Bilderberg, MouthLondon took just 15 of the biggest corporate names who attended the meeting and calculated the combined turnover of the companies they run.

The number you get is approximately £498.66bn or to put it in context; more than the GDP of both Denmark and Norway combined.

15 of the big corporate names who attended Bilderberg 2011 (turnover):

 

Josef Ackermann, Chairman, Deutsche Bank (£25.1bn)

Thomas Enders, CEO, Airbus SAS (£40.37bn)

Peter Löscher, President and CEO, Siemens AG (£67 bn)

Nicolas Bazire, Managing Director, Groupe Arnault /LVMH (£17.9 bn)

Henri de Castries, Chairman and CEO, AXA (£80.2bn)

Douglas J. Flint,  Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings (£60.55bn)

George A. David,  Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A. (£21.5bn)

John Elkann, Chairman, Fiat S.p.A. (£31.6bn)

Marc J. Bolland, Chief Executive, Marks and Spencer Group plc  (£9.4bn)

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman, Nestlé S.A. (£80.37bn)

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com (£20.9bn)

Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn (£0.099bn)

Chris R. Hughes, Co-founder, Facebook (£1.22bn)

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google Inc. (£18bn)

Franco Bernabè, CEO, Telecom Italia SpA (£24.5bn)

 

Now that the mandarins behind the global get-together have seen fit to distribute the names of at least some of those attending, demonstrators who perceive the meeting to be anti-democratic are now calling for the agenda of the meeting to be laid bare too.

…an elite “plotting” the future of the global economy…

It is commonly held that the European Union was born at a meeting of the Bilderberg group although we can’t be certain and while that project has been an arguable success, sceptics remain fearful of the threat posed by an elite “plotting” the future of the global economy behind closed doors.

The idea that “Chatham House Rules” can transform a meeting outcome from a stalemate like the one reached in Copenhagen on Climate Change to coming up with a solution to the crisis in the Eurozone or the challenges posed by the internet is an interesting but far-fetched one.

It probably didn’t help that Copenhagen was attended by politicians who needed to save face and couldn’t be seen to make concessions publicly, but maybe the confidential nature of Bilderberg and the mix of public and private sector views and objectives could lead to pragmatic solutions on some of the world’s most pressing global issues.

…political leaders become increasingly nervous of a repeat diplomatic storm caused by Wikileaks’…

Google, Facebook and Linkedin are all attending Bilderberg this year representing a new focus on the internet as political leaders become increasingly nervous of a repeat diplomatic storm caused by Wikileaks’ release of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The media got some insight into this year’s meeting when on a walk-about in the mountains near the venue for Bilderberg 2011, Thomas Enders, the Airbus boss, was approached by demonstrators and asked about what was being discussed; “Nothing bad,” replied Enders. “We are just making our agendas”. When pushed further by the activist as to what was being specifically discussed Enders retorted “I don’t have to tell you, and you don’t need to know.”

Maybe Enders is onto something, maybe we don’t need to know and maybe it’s better we never do.

 

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