Allen & Co. summer camp mogulfest gets underway


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

For most people, going to the same place every summer for almost 30 years would get a little boring.

But moguls are not most people and once again the industry’s top executives are gathering in Sun Valley, Idaho for investment bank Allen & Co.’s 28th annual gathering of the media elite. Inbetween the biking, hiking, tennis and rafting trips, top executives from traditional and new media will schmooze with politicians, a world leader or two, and maybe even some athletes.


Hiding in the bushes hoping to break some news or at least score some gossip will be a handful of reporters including the folks from CNBC. For one week, media executives get to see what life is like for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Instead of being asked if they are having another baby or if their marriage is on the rocks though, they get asked if they’re doing any deals. The executives chuckle and walk on since Allen & Co., while loving all the attention their little shindig gets, discourages attendees from mingling with the press. In fact, last year they even made the bar at the resort where the conference is held off limits to reporters.

The usual suspects are attending including, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes, Google’s Eric Schmidt, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Walt Disney’s Bob Iger and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Already the Wall Street Journal breathlessly reported that Schmidt and Zuckerberg drove off together for a meeting (or a cup of coffee, who knows).

That’s what life is like for the press at Sun Valley. They see someone, write where they are going, and then try to figure out what they might be talking about. It’s an event that is perfect for Twitter because rarely does anything happen that merits more than 140 characters. A highlight of last year was Universal Pictures chief Ron Meyer accidentally driving off in BET founder Bob Johnson’s rental car.

Yes, lots of deals have been born out of the conference including the marriage of Comcast and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal. However, that wasn’t learned until after the fact, which no doubt left the media wondering how they missed the moment when Comcast chief Brian Roberts passed a love note to General Electric chief Jeff Immelt.

Attendees arrived Tuesday and headed off to the welcome barbecue. On Wednesday, the panels will start including one titled, ‘Entertainment in the Digital Era’ featuring former News Corp. President Peter Chernin, IAC/InterActiveCorp. head Barry Diller, Activision President Bobby Kotick and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Moderating is New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, who usually then tells the press some of the highlights of the panel.

Tom Brokaw is also moderating a panel on women in technology featuring Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Xerox executives Ursula Burns and Anne Mulcahy.


It’s not all about media though. Mayors Mike Bloomberg of New York, Richard Daley of Chicago and Cory Booker of Newark will take part in a panel that Charlie Rose is moderating. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also expected to make an appearance. The conference will end on Saturday with presentations from Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet.

There are some notable absences from this year’s gathering including Viacom and CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone who also skipped last year’s conference. Forget Godot, it’s Apple’s Steve Jobs everyone is waiting for. Jobs was first said to be coming, but now it’s not clear if he will grace Allen & Co. with his presence. While others make getting invited to Sun Valley their main goal in life, Jobs has only shown up a couple of times.

Likely skipping is Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who was a big hit at last year’s meeting. Right now James is busy figuring out where he’ll spend the next decade or so of his basketball career. His name was on an early list of attendees but on the final list it wasn’t there, according to one attendee. While James may need advice on what to do with his fortune, he apparently can handle the decision on where to make that fortune on his own.

-- Joe Flint