Davos Q&A: Will Lewis, Dow Jones CEO, on why he's extremely optimistic

  1. 'I can't remember more of a sense of optimism among business leaders since 1999'
  2. 'I read for at least two hours a day: I want to read more but I get too busy'

William (Will) Lewis, the chief executive officer of news conglomerate Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and financial data, told WikiTribune at the World Economic Forum in Davos why he’s more optimistic now than last year at the prospects for economic growth worldwide. He also told us that he tries to read for two hours a day.

WikiTribune: Are you more, less, or equivalently optimistic as you were last year at Davos?

Lewis: “I’m 100 percent more optimistic than I was a year ago. The CEOs, business leaders, government folk that we speak to are all now I would say almost at extreme levels of optimism.

“Whether it’s because of the [U.S.] tax cuts, the repatriation of overseas moneys (CNBC), the deregulation environment agenda … whether its the markets or whether it’s the fact that sectors are growing: there is a greater degree of optimism than I can remember in about 20 years. For me it feels like 1999 – and that’s not a point to say that I think it’s about to tip over.”

Lewis added that risks on the horizon were there but they were more “existential” and therefore impossible for markets to plan for compared to systemic economic risks.

“The but, the two buts, are that there is profound risk around which is not priced into the market because it is existential risk, like North Korea, like Brexit no-deal, which the market can’t actually price in. Secondly, if it does fall the safety nets are not around: the monetary policy levers are not in existence. But I can’t remember more of a sense of optimism among business leaders since 1999.”

Of course, that optimism was jolted ultimately by the 2000 “dot-com” crash

WikiTribune: What are the risks to the globalist agenda that the Davos [World Economic Forum] sits on?

Lewis: “I think again if the capital base model goes wrong then that’s a profound risk. When the global financial crisis hit it knocked this place for six [using a cricket metaphor]. They had to examine their navel and rightly so, think about how on earth we got into this mess. If the system goes wrong again and whether it is a free trade calamity like NAFTA falling apart (QZ.com) or Brexit negotiations falling apart (BBC), whether it’s some idiotic clampdown on migration – all of which are entirely possible – then this place will find its agenda very challenged.”

WikiTribune: What news service do you use the most? [Yes, we realize it’s an odd one to ask a media leader, but it’s the same question we aim to ask other people attending the WEF.]

Lewis: [Laughs.} “Well, one of the many privileges of this job is that I read for at least two hours a day: I want to read more but I get too busy. I try to read the equivalent of 500 pages a day, right? But I try and read all of our publications and I try and read our competitors … I like to leap around as well: I do go from the Journal, to Barron’s, to The New York Times, to the Financial Times. I will then dip in … I love the London Times … so I will bounce around but I hit all of our stuff every day and I will take in four or five of the competitors.”

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    This Q&A has been edited for clarity and to remove elements which were off the record but is very close to the full four minute, 25 second discussion we recorded.

    The writer has known Will Lewis professionally for nearly 20 years.

    Lewis was a respected journalist in his own right and worked at the Financial Times, The Sunday Times, News International, and former senior roles at The News Corporation. His biography is here on the Dow Jones corporate site. Dow Jones is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

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