It’s that time of year again. That post-July 4th period when media barons and billionaires break out the Brooks Brothers casual and don their sweater vests to hit an idyllic Idaho resort town of Sun Valley for another edition of “let’s make a deal.”
Many of the names expected to rub elbows next month are familiar ones. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Liberty Media’s John Malone, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple pasha Tim Cook and Berkshire Hathaway guru Warren Buffett are among those who have once again made the cut for Allen & Co.’s annual media conference. David Zaslav, fresh from uniting WarnerMedia and Discovery into the newly minted conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery, is once again on the guest list. He’s joined by the likes of Paramount Global’s Shari Redstone, Netflix co-chairs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek. Bob Iger, the man who Chapek replaced, is also still among the invited and the two Bobs aren’t exactly fans of each other.
Known as “summer camp for moguls,” Sun Valley has inspired several major media mergers. Among the unions that were first hatched in the mountain hideaway are Comcast’s purchase of NBC/Universal, the Washington Post’s sale to Jeff Bezos and Disney’s deal for Capital Cities/ABC. It was also responsible for one epic disaster, setting the stage for AOL and Time Warner’s short-lived merger, but the less said about that…
From the world of Silicon Valley, there’s Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Elon Musk, the man who is trying to buy the social media platform. Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, who recently announced she will step down as chief operating officer in the fall, are on the list, along with Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Eventbrite co-founders Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz, YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki and Spotify founder Daniel Ek. After sitting out Sun Valley last year, billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel is poised to make his return.
Also getting the golden ticket are several members of the fourth estate. They include pillars of broadcast journalism such as Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer, along with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, New York Times editorial page staple Thomas Friedman, conservative commentator Douglas Murray and “Squawk Box” co-hosts Andrew Ross Sorkin and Rebecca Quick. CNN is represented by the likes of Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Van Jones.
From the Hollywood power brokers set there’s ICM’s Chris Silbermann, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, recovering super agent Mike Ovitz, Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer and Casey Wasserman, the head of sports marketing and talent agency Wasserman. They’re joined by Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, late of Quibi.
There’s a cadre of sports and fashion-oriented attendees including Nike founder Phil Knight, Spanx CEO Sara Blakely, St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, wrestler Eddie Edwards and Tony Bloom, sports bettor and football club owner.
Sun Valley often sees an intersection of Beltway insiders, academics and billionaires. This year is no exception. There’s former CIA directors Michael Morrell and David Petraeus, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, University of Chicago President Bob Zimmer, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, Council on Foreign Relations head Richard Haass and Yousef Al Otaiba, the current United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States.
Sun Valley guests gather in the morning to hear lectures on political, cultural or economic topics. Health care, science and security seem to be front of mind given the composition of the guest list. Among those featured on the list are Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Mayo Clinic CEO Gianrico Farrugia, New York-Presbyterian Hospital head Steve Corwin, biochemist Feng Zhang, mental health advocate Anne Moss Rogers and the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
A few moguls seem to be sitting this one out. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch aren’t on the guest list despite having gone to several past Sun Valley conferences. Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan are expected to attend, however.
All of these names come with a pretty major caveat. Being on the guest list doesn’t mean the mogul or political leader or celebrity in question will actually make the trek to Sun Valley. Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld have shown up on guest lists in the past without actually touching down in Idaho. Allen & Co. tends to reward the heads of companies who have done business with the investment bank with an invite and once a mogul has made the cut, they tend to come back for years, even decades.