Gas up the Learjets and break out the Moncler vests, it’s time for corporate chieftains to let their hair down, as only the one percent of the one percent knows how.
Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, Warner Bros. Discovery honcho David Zaslav, Paramount Global chair Shari Redstone, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple head Tim Cook, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are heading to Idaho in July to attend the annual “summer camp for moguls,” known more formally as Sun Valley. And Bob Iger, back on the throne at the Walt Disney Company, will also be touching down in the resort town after a brief, unhappy (for shareholders) interregnum. They’ll be mixing and mingling with other media barons, Silicon Valley heavyweights and political players at the media finance retreat hosted by Allen & Co.
Among those getting tapped to dust off their Brooks Brothers casual wear are two former treasury secretaries, Lawrence Summers and Hank Paulson, one former Italian Prime Minister (Mario Draghi), and one former CIA chief (David Petraeus). There’s also an armada of investment giants such as Warren Buffett, former American Express chief Kenneth Chenault, LinkedIn co-founder turned Greylock Partners exec Reid Hoffman, Annox Capital’s Bob Myeloid, and Facebook investor and Gawker killer Peter Thiel.
Most members of the press are kept roped off from the guests, who ignore their shouted questions, but secretly love being photographed walking the paths around the resort, confabbing with other masters of industry. But a few lucky denizens of the fourth estate do get a Golden Ticket, often serving as moderators for the off-the-record discussions. From the world of media there’s New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, CBS’s Gayle King and David Begnaud, CNN’s Van Jones and Erin Burnett, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, The Free Press’ Bari Weiss, and Becky Quick, who co-hosts “Squawk Box” with Sorkin. And don’t forget Oprah Winfrey, who will lend her megawatt star power to the event, should she decide to attend.
Netflix chairman Reed Hastings will likely make the trip, along with Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters, who was appointed co-CEO of the streamer this year. Other Hollywood and Silicon Valley power players include Casey Wasserman, whose sports marketing and talent management company Wasserman is close to a deal to acquire Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Bobby Kotick, who is still lobbying regulators to approve the sale of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft for $69 billion in cash. Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO on the other end of those talks, is also slated to attend.
They will take bike rides, sample barbecue, and attempt to look like regular vacationers along with CAA maestro Bryan Lourd, Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, Battersea Entertainment’s Josh Berger, Jeffrey Katzenberg (recently named Biden campaign co-chair), and Dana Walden, the co-chairman of Disney Entertainment. Allen & Co. discourages those who attend from bringing an entourage, but quite a few corporate chiefs secretly have teams of assistants holed up in area motels to help with their needs.
Some usual suspects, such as Elon Musk, did not appear on the guest list. Lachlan Murdoch is also not named among the attendees, though his father, Rupert Murdoch, is along with ex-wife Wendi Deng Murdoch. And Jeff Shell, a familiar presence at Sun Valley, won’t be there this time, having been dispatched from his post at NBCUniversal for failing to disclose an affair with a colleague.
Geo-politics is always top of mind for the industry leaders who come to Sun Valley. To that end, Amos Yadlin, former Israel Defense Forces military attaché to Washington, D.C., and head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, has been invited, along with Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United State. Also on hand are Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-American policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, and Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
At a time when artificial intelligence is a hot button issue in entertainment, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, will be on hand to field questions about the new technology. Elsewhere, Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of yogurt maker Chobani, and restaurateur and father of Shake Shack Danny Meyer, will grade the culinary options.
On the sports front, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA commissioner Adam Silver may all be packing their bags to hang out with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.
An invite to the exclusive event doesn’t necessarily mean the guest is making the trek to Idaho. But those in attendance are treated to lectures on political, cultural, social or economic topics. Sun Valley has been the meet-cute spot behind some major media mergers, including Comcast’s purchase of NBC/Universal, the Washington Post’s sale to Bezos and Disney’s deal for ABC.
Who knows what M&A may be on the menu when the conference kicks off this July.