Gates Bites AOL Rival; Critics Call for End to “Weigh-In Circuses”

New York, N.Y. ( – After a massive brawl involving hundreds of world leaders and business heavyweights, World Economic Forum organizers today said they may discontinue the annual pre-forum weigh-ins.

Gates, on left, struggles with Parson's entourage
Bill Gates (upper left) attacks AOL's entourage at the W.E.F. weigh-in. This year's forum theme: "Leadership in Fragile Times: a Vision for a Shared Future."

It was the second straight year the opening weigh-in has devolved into a melee. At the 2001 forum weigh-in at Davos, Switzerland, dozens of chief executives and heads of state were injured after British Petroleum CEO Sir John Browne (79.5 kilos), taunted Bank of France governor Jean-Claude Trichet (76.2 kilos), with shouts of, “Your import duties are going down! Your excise taxes are going down!” Trichet’s response of “I want to eat your heart! I want to eat your children!” touched off the altercation.

This year’s spectacle immediately caused critics to question the need for a weigh-in at the forum, which annually brings together 3,000 of the world’s elite businesspeople and politicians to discuss the global economy and pretend they’re willing to share it.

“These weigh-ins have become a circus, and I think the W.E.F. is dragging economics into the dirt,” said Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jason Widgefist. “I don’t think there is any need for the attendees to ‘pose’ like that. And come to think of it, why the hell do they need to be publicly weighed, anyway?”

W.E.F. President Klaus Schwab agreed, and said that prior to future forums, participants might be weighed privately.

Economic old-timers such as Berkshire-Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett (92 kilos), however, defended the weigh-ins, saying they are more than just show. “I remember back at the ’97 weigh-in, I was chin-to-chin with General Re CEO Ron Ferguson (79 kilos), giving him the ‘ol eye of the tiger,” Buffett recalled. “Well, you could just see the guy go to jelly when I whispered in his ear, ‘I own you.’ And the next year, I did.”

Thursday’s incident at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria began when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (86 kilos) unexpectedly walked across the stage and charged AOL Time Warner’s incoming chief executive Richard Parsons (90 kilos). Gates was intercepted by Parson’s entourage, which included U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan (68 kilos) and United Airlines Chairman Niall Fitzgerald (80 kilos). During the five-minute scuffle, Gates allegedly bit Parsons on the thigh, while World Bank President James Wolfensohn (92 kilos) suffered a bloody lip. Wolfensohn also claimed $50 million was missing from his wallet, and immediately blamed Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde (80 kilos).

An irate Gates was quickly pulled from the fray, only to get into a shouting match with a computer hardware company executive who suggested the Microsoft founder needed a straitjacket.

“I’ll put your mother in a straitjacket, you (deleted)!” responded Gates. “I’ll (deleted) your company until you love me! You’re scared of a real visionary! I’ll make you my little subsidiary, you (deleted)!”

In his dressing room later, Gates insisted he and Parsons had pre-arranged to conduct a stare-off for the benefit of the cameras, but said Parson’s handlers panicked and intervened when Gates approached.

Economic analysts, meanwhile, wondered if the entire clash was not a publicity stunt meant to generate interest in the forum’s Pay-Per-View seminars, such as Saturday’s “Reducing Poverty and Improving Equity” main event. ($29.95. Contact your cable operator for details.)

Thursday’s row was not the first such incident for “Megabyte Bill.” At an Internet World trade show panel two years ago, Gates literally chewed off Oracle President Ray Lane’s head. Lane later retired citing medical reasons.

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