Sun Valley: Billionaire Summer Camp Starts, But Where Are the Women?

Summer camp for billionaires is now in session.

In a few hours, the number of private jets will rival people at the tiny Sun Valley airport, as the likes of Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other leading lights from the worlds of new and old media converge on the Idaho ski resort.

They are lured to this remote mountainside outpost for Allen & Co.’s behind-closed-doors moguls meet-up. It’s an invite that is only extended to a slender fraction of the 1%, and inclusion on the guest list is a recognition of that most precious of things: power.

That’s particularly important for a rising generation of business leaders, such as Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta and Spanx founder Sara Blakely, who have generated lots of excitement among users and investors, but aren’t yet household names. And not making the cut can result in snarky New York Post headlines — something tech investor Peter Thiel recently discovered.

Some glass ceilings remain stubbornly in place. Despite the presence of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, women are still woefully underrepresented among attendees. Something that speaks to a lack of diversity in corporate suites.

Last year, for example, Candice Bergen, accomplished though she is, but no mogul, was one of the few female guests. It hasn’t gotten much better. Bloomberg crunched the numbers and discovered that women represented fewer than 25 of the more than 300 people on this year’s guest list.

The power brokers who gather at Sun Valley will have a lot on their mind.

Cable is under pressure as younger viewers cut the cord and subsist on a Netflix diet, endangering advertising and subscriber revenues.

Smaller studios like DreamWorks Animation are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in a world dominated by intellectual property rich behemoths like Disney.

And there is an increasing sense that across every corner of the entertainment industry, from film to television to new media, consolidation is coming and only the bulkiest players will be able to compete. It’s no accident that the last Sun Valley conference unfolded amidst 21st Century Fox’s failed play for Time Warner.

Many of these discussions will take place away from the prying eyes of journalists. Sun Valley is notoriously hostile to media, who are separated, Hillary Clinton press scrum-like, in a few roped off areas. Moguls for the most part remain tight-lipped when questioned by reporters, though most seem to relish being photographed walking into and out of the conference, bedecked in wind breakers and baseball caps.

For the Idaho community that hosts the famed confab, secrecy continues to be the guiding principle. Throughout the town there are signs and banners for upcoming literary and art festivals, but nothing to indicate that many of the most powerful men and women in the world are gathered a mile away.

After all, that kind of enforced anonymity is what keeps the Murdochs and Igers of the world coming back.

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