NEW YORK — What a difference a year makes.
Of the media moguls currently massing at Sun Valley, Idaho, today for Allen & Co.’s storied annual retreat, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Edgar Bronfman Jr. both are heads of newly public companies. Rupert Murdoch has taken Fox private and moved News Corp. headquarters from Australia to the U.S. Howard Stringer has ascended into the corporate ether, having been named chairman of Sony — the Japanese giant that swallowed MGM.
Michael Eisner and Harvey and Bob Weinstein — whose attendance couldn’t be confirmed as of late last week — have parted ways. The Weinsteins have launched their own shop, and Eisner soon will step aside for Bob Iger. Last summer, much was made at the posh and piney mountain resort of Eisner and Harvey Weinstein, during the bitterest days of their divorce, in deep conversation at a lakeside picnic table.
A Mouse deal with Steve Jobs’ Pixar seems much more likely than it did a year ago.
Viacom chief Sumner Redstone has split his company in two. Clear Channel’s splitting, too. Liberty Media is spinning off Discovery. The stocks and synergies of big media congloms have fallen out of favor.
Time Warner’s Richard Parsons, heading to Sun Valley along with deputies Jeff Bewkes and Don Logan, has agreed to buy Adelphia Communications and take it public in a package with Time Warner Cable. A handful of other cable companies, including Cox, Insight and, most recently, Cablevision, are going private.
Allen & Co., the Gotham-based boutique investment bank with close ties to Hollywood power players, has hosted the confab for 23 years, and the event has garnered a reputation for dealmaking as execs explore strategic options while golfing and whitewater rafting. Sun Valley was the fabled birthplace of the Disney-ABC marriage.
Since then, however, the deal landscape has changed dramatically.
Private equity firms now rep some of the biggest media owners in the world, and they’re likely to be well represented at the gathering. Media execs — rather than trolling for the next big acquisition — more likely will be exploring ways to downsize, to become more nimble and creative.
New technologies like digital video recorders, satellite radio and the iPod are real threats. So are the telcos. It’s a tough time.
DVDs in a spin
Even the massively lucrative DVD market, which has changed studio economics in recent years, may be shifting: Witness the recent DVD speed bumps at Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.
Hollywood got a helping hand from a recent Supreme Court ruling on file-sharing, as did cablers with another ruling on high-speed Internet access.
The five-day conference traditionally is closed to the press — partly, organizers say, because the guests (185 invited this year) often attend with families in tow.
Moguls breakfast at a leisurely 6:30 a.m., with daily seminars from 7:30 to 11:30. Then there’s playtime. CNBC sets up a camera outside the Sun Valley Hotel, and roaming reporters nab whom they can.
Hollywood-beloved Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won’t be there. Her fund-raising org Friends of Hillary was planning an invitation-only fund-raising luncheon at a private home in Sun Valley during the Allen & Co. conference. Edgar Bronfman Sr. was to be one of the hosts. A Friends rep said the event’s been canceled.