The founder of the World Economic Forum is resigning from the post of executive chairman

Klaus Schwab / Photo EPA-EFE/GIAN EHRENZELLER

Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), will resign as executive chairman, reports the Financial Times. The 86-year-old spent more than half a century at the helm of the famous world business conference.

Schwab has presided over the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort of Davos since he founded it in 1971, turning it into a hugely profitable enterprise, owned by a charitable foundation, with annual revenues of 500 million euros. According to the announcement, Schwab is scheduled to retire in January of next year.

Borge Brende, chairman of the SEF executive board and former Norwegian foreign minister, is set to take over. "The organization has been undergoing a planned evolution of management from a founder-led organization to an organization in which the president and board of directors assume full executive responsibility," WEF said.

Schwab helped transform the CEF from humble beginnings as a conference for European businessmen to exchange strategic ideas supported by the European Commission into a conference attended by CEOs, bankers and policy makers.

At its most recent gathering earlier this year, the forum attracted more than 50 heads of state, including Argentine President Javier Maile, policymakers including European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde and dozens of business leaders, including JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.

Schwab, a German-born mechanical engineer, founded the conference while working as a professor at the University of Geneva. A target of climate activists, populists and anti-capitalists, the conference has recently struggled to maintain its appeal as geopolitical tensions and protectionism erode its pro-globalization mantra.

The SEF's relations with Davos are increasingly strained. The city plans to hold a referendum next month that could sharply limit the number of people attending the conference. Schwab has threatened to move the conference to another location, citing the success of its gathering in Singapore during the coronavirus pandemic.

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