Klaus Schwab: World Economic Forum founder steps down

The organisation is undergoing internal structural change, shifting to a president and board model

World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab at the 2022 summit in Davos, Switzerland. Reuters
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Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down from active leadership of the body that convenes the annual meetings of global executives and politicians in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Schwab, 86, said he is moving to a non-executive role by January 2025, according to the WEF website.

“The organisation has also been undergoing a planned governance evolution from a founder-managed organisation to one where a president and managing board assume full executive responsibility,” the WEF said.

The body did not specify who would take those roles.

Mr Schwab attended the annual meeting in Davos in January, but missed a major WEF meeting in Riyadh last month, which raised questions about his health.

He started what became the World Economic Forum – initially called the European Management Forum – in 1971 as a symposium on corporate management.

World Economic Forum in Riyadh - in pictures

Since then, the event grew to become an annual gathering of about 2,500 corporate executives, financiers, and politicians, and other public figures from more than 100 countries, addressing matters such as inequality, migration, digital innovation and globalisation.

Mr Schwab chose the Alpine location of Davos to make guests feel relaxed and speak freely, according to the Geneva-based non-profit organisation’s website.

With a slogan of “committed to improving the state of the world", the forum attracts global attention and criticism, and conspiracy theories.

The 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos - in pictures

Mr Schwab was born in Germany to parents of Swiss origin.

While the organisation he founded has frequently faced the charge of elitism, he has consistently stressed the need for the kind of global co-operation it offered.

“Big challenges – environmental, poverty – cannot be solved by governments alone, or by business alone, or by civil society,” Mr Schwab told the Financial Times in defence of the conference in 2020.

“You need co-operation.”

Updated: May 21, 2024, 9:13 PM