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Sun Valley Prepares for Heatwave and Heavyweights This Week

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Last year, Luke’s Family Pharmacy on Main Street had a run on wheelchairs during the height of this mountain resort’s summer season. This year, it might be aspirin.

Media moguls, tech barons, entrepreneurs and others are gathering Tuesday at Idaho’s Sun Valley Lodge for the annual conference and retreat hosted by investment bank Allen & Co. The movers and shakers come together at a time of disruption and transformation in the industry and turmoil and division in the culture at large.

The fates of the largest media companies are up in the air amid the battle for control of 21st Century Fox between Disney and Comcast, the dynastic drama surrounding CBS Corp. and Viacom, and AT&T closing the deal at long last for Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner. And then there’s the specter of the FAANG giants and their ambition expand in the content arena — the competitive threat that is fueling so much of traditional media’s M&A activity.

On Monday afternoon, as the temperature in Sun Valley topped 90 degrees, the mood outside the spacious resort was akin to an award show red carpet just before the limo swarm arrives. Hotel staffers were busy putting out the finishing touches — including plenty of pens and pads of paper — in the ballrooms and meeting rooms that will host the A-listers for the next few days.

The heat wave didn’t stop the resort from hauling out the ice resurfacing machine to get its outdoor skating rink ready for guests. The Sun Valley Lodge complex has a storybook feel to it, with floral landscaping and a gentle stream running through Alpine-style cottages. The grounds are also equipped with a second indoor ice skating rink, an outdoor pavilion for performances, a movie theater with Sony 4K projection (which will no doubt please Sony Corp.’s new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida in his first visit to the conference), and a clutch of tony shops and restaurants.

The locals in Sun Valley seem generally aware the Allen & Co. conference was about to bring a parade of moguls and dignitaries to town, but they weren’t overly impressed given the boldface names that visit the area’s resorts in the summer and winter ski season. A Luke’s pharmacy cashier who gave her name as Analia shrugged her shoulders and explained, “We’re used to it.”

At the Wicked Spud bar and grill a few miles (and tax brackets) away from Sun Valley Lodge, two regulars debated which held the title of world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. Warren Buffett, No. 3 behind Bezos and Gates on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, will also be in town for a Saturday Q&A session held as part of the conference.

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