Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who are fleeing a wave of negative headlines currently enveloping the White House, are the oddball star attraction at Allen & Co.’s annual media and technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. But the members of the First Family are trying to maintain a low profile among the moguls and billionaires.
The couple arrived at the mountain resort on Wednesday evening. The week-long conference unfolds at the Sun Valley Lodge, a bucolic retreat, adorned with pools, tennis courts, and rolling hills. Kushner and Trump had dinner at the hotel’s ice rink, where they mingled with such high profile guests as CBS chief Leslie Moonves, according to attendees.
The annual conference draws a number of big names from Hollywood and Silicon Valley — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes, ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann, and producer Brian Grazer are among the guests. While Kushner and Trump have been attending conference sessions, the news cycle has been dominated by stories related to a Kremlin-connected lawyer’s offers to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The scandal, and the release of emails from Donald Trump Jr. providing proof of the exchange, is raising questions about the role that Russia played in the recent presidential election.
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On Thursday, the couple were spotted at a series of panels on Middle East peace and race relations, featuring talks from Charles Barkley and King Abdullah II of Jordan. Neither Trump nor Kushner are scheduled to speak at the event. Guests said that they were very polite, with many moguls seeking out the First Family members. There may be some awkwardness. Some of the guests aren’t fans of Trump. IAC Chairman Barry Diller, one of the event’s attendees, told CNBC in an interview this week that Trump’s presidency was “a joke,” adding that “hopefully it will be over relatively soon.”
The reception was apparently warmer in the room.
“People were coming up to them,” said one guest. “They’re controversial, but no one is treating them like pariahs.”
The day’s talks were described as being uplifting. King Abdullah expressed optimism that Israel and Palestine seem to be more receptive to coming to the negotiating table, raising the possibility that the conflict-riven region might finally see peace.
Barkley addressed the political divide in America during a panel discussion that included Xerox chairman Ursuala Burns, the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, and J.D. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy.” The takeaway was that there needed to be more effort to find common ground in American public life.
The morning also included an interview with Nike founder Phil Knight that was moderated by CNBC’s Rebecca Quick. Knight was earthy, sharing stories from his career and life, according to people in the room.