Tim Cook, Lachlan Murdoch, Shari Redstone, Brian Roberts, Mark Zuckerberg and Bob Iger are among the media and technology moguls who will be touching down in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July for Allen & Co.’s annual media conference.
The invite-only confab is a chance for the one-percent of the one-percent to break out their windbreakers and jeans, and give the power suits a rest while biking and hiking in alpine splendor. It’s also historically been the locus of deal-making. Comcast’s purchase of NBC/Universal, the Washington Post’s sale to Jeff Bezos and Disney’s pact for Capital Cities/ABC were all hatched at Sun Valley. The conference was also the birthplace of some less successful mergers, namely AOL’s disastrous marriage to Time Warner (the less said about that, the better).
In recent years, as technology and streaming have upended the traditional entertainment business, the biggest stars at Sun Valley have hailed from Silicon Valley. The contingent at the 2019 edition will include Dell Technologies chief Michael Dell, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, Palantir CEO Alex Karp, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone.
There’s still a big contingent from the worlds of television and movies, even if the business is under siege. From Hollywood and its environs, there’s Oscar-winning producer and Imagine Entertainment co-founder Brian Grazer, CAA super-agent Bryan Lourd, MPAA chief Charlie Rivkin, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, NBCUniversal vice-chairman Ron Meyer, and Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive overseeing the company’s direct-to-consumer push.
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Also getting the golden ticket are Berkshire Hathaway guru Warren Buffett, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, restaurateur and father of Shake Shack Danny Meyer, and Casey Wasserman, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee president and head honcho of marketing and management company Wasserman. Investor Peter Thiel, whose support for Donald Trump could earn him the cold shoulder from left-leaning guests, will be on hand. Joining him on the guest list are Shelby Bonnie, the CNET founder whose new company, Pylon AI, is an artificial intelligence powered publishing platform, and Stewart Butterfield, founder of cloud based messaging service Slack.
From the world of politics there’s former CIA director David Petraeus, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan. The sports business is represented by PGA tour commissioner Jay Monahan, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and Buffalo Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula.
Most reporters are kept out of the event, but a few bold-faced names do get permitted behind the velvet rope. This year, the anointed members of the Fourth Estate include CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, and Van Jones, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, NBC’s Tom Brokaw, New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, and “Squawk Box” co-hosts Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Former Forbes richest person alive Bill Gates will once again attend, along with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the mogul who replaced him atop the world’s wealthiest ranking.
The list is littered with familiar names and returning guests, but some moguls have found themselves without a pass to the event. Former CBS chief Leslie Moonves was a regular at Sun Valley, but he won’t be back this year. Moonves was ousted from the television company last year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Former Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara also routinely attended Sun Valley. He’s off the guest list and out of his gig at Warner Bros. after resigning amid reports that he used his position to get auditions for an actress with whom he was having an affair.
Other regulars such as Netflix chief Reed Hastings and Rupert Murdoch were not on the guest list obtained by Variety. James Murdoch, who left the family business after Disney purchased much of 21st Century Fox, is on the list, joining his brother Lachlan, now ensconced at Fox Corporation, the reconstituted company that will center on Fox News and Fox Broadcasting.
Sun Valley isn’t just about dealmaking and elbow-rubbing. Guests attend panels from leaders in politics, sports, nonprofits and other sectors that grapple with everything from global warming to school reform. These take place behind closed doors, but photographers line the resort hoping to get snapshots of moguls as they walk back and forth between their hotel rooms and the conference center.
There are some indications that this year’s gathering will boast panels about law, medicine and geopolitical hotspots. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist who has studied depression, is on the list, as are Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment who focuses on Iran; Joseph Vacanti, a pioneering pediatric surgeon; and Tim Sini, the Suffolk County district attorney who recently worked to exonerate Keith Bush, a Long Island man who spent decades in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Being on the guest list doesn’t mean the mogul or media icon in question will actually show up. Jerry Seinfeld made the cut one year, but never bothered to take in the Idaho sunshine.
Updated: 8:00 pm EST.