Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch’s biography, “Davos, Aspen and Yale,” tells part of the story that unfolds each year at this time in a town high in the Swiss Alps. But who is Ted Malloch? We are talking about someone who has been a high-ranking officer at the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, member of many boards of directors, and one who has made very profitable investments in the tech industry. He is also a man who, by the time the book was written, had visited 145 countries.
The book is an honest account of Malloch’s experiences. It is honest in that he describes events regardless of whether, by telling them, they may hurt someone’s feelings or may damage an organization’s reputation.
The story starts from Malloch’s childhood. He describes himself as a very determined and hardworking young person, always eager to learn and excel in every task. As he grew up, this mindset, and fortunate timing, opened the doors for him to turn to the world of investment in the tech industry. There, his good fortune allowed him to make a good deal of money. Later, misfortune in similar ventures took away much of what he had made.
After that, a remarkable ability to make and maintain contacts, and a past of reliability, allowed him to join the United Nations, where he discovered, among other things, that a vast part of this organization produces few useful results. As cynical as I had been about the U.N., my attitude had begun to change with the positives the U.N. has brought with the Sustainable Development Goals. It was tough to be reminded of the lingering wastage by an insider.
A while after Malloch left the U.N., Dr. Klaus Schwab, who is the mastermind of the World Economic Forum (the group that hosts the Davos meeting in Switzerland), started luring Malloch to join his organization. At the time, the WEF was not as big as it is today, and its main sphere of influence was in Europe. Given that Malloch was extremely well-connected in the U.S., he was an ideal person to connect Americans to the WEF. In the end, Malloch found that, instead of being an organization “committed to improve the state of the world,” as it is described in the organization’s mission, its objective is to profit mercilessly.
A few years later, Malloch joined the Aspen Institute. Though it was described as an organization that was to be “fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue,” Malloch actually found a leadership vacuum that was caused by its leader, David McLaughlin. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Malloch from trying to improve the institute. This lasted until McLaughlin fired everyone who posed a threat to his authority.
Malloch then joined the renowned Yale University, where he found a lack of tolerance to what he considered nonextreme-leftist ideals and an excessive bureaucracy. Eventually, Malloch decided to seek for better, more open-minded horizons, and he devoted more time to his own consulting group.
One of the things I noted about the author’s approach is that he uses his wit, sense of humor and intellect to write a really interesting book about a life lived among the elite. But he didn’t let the elite define his life. Ultimately, Malloch found what he wanted in life by setting spiritual goals, by following his heart, by persevering, by following virtue and values, and by keeping his faith. I wonder if this didn’t bring him happiness rather than the money and power.
John Hoffmire is director of the Impact Bond Fund at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and directs the Center on Business and Poverty at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison. He runs Progress Through Business, a nonprofit group promoting economic development.
Mario Alejandro Mercado Mendoza, Hoffmire’s colleague at Progress Through Business, did the research for this article.
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