Buffett, Murdoch, Among Allen Conference Biz Leaders
It's been a whirlwind here at the Allen & Co. Conference--watching and interviewing all the biggest names in the media world. Everyone's paying close attention to Rupert Murdoch. He rushed into the Sun Valley Inn Wednesday morning just in time for breakfast.
When asked if there's any news on theDow Jones acquisition Murdoch said "not this week" and continued to rush in, hand in hand with his wife Wendi Deng. Then Thursday morning when he was walking into breakfast and asked if he thought the deal would happen he said "no idea". At lunch he sat with Paramount Studio chief Brad Grey and Terry Semel for a bit, then with Anderson Cooper, who must be here as a special guest.
Herb Allen told us Wednesday's agenda included a presentation from Time Warner's Dick Parsons and Jeff Bewkes, then panels on private equity and hedge funds. Parsons stopped by yesterday evening to give us the scoop on his presentation: it was all about how Time Warner is keeping up with the times. He talked about how they have the benefit of really strong brands and that the method of content distribution has to evolve, it's not about taking the same content and putting it online. I asked him about what they're doing to push into the social networking space. He pointed out, fairly enough that AOL instant messenger is one of the largest social networks. My question is why didn't they turn AIM into myspace? They'd certainly be smart to make that push asap.
Lunchtime at the duckpond looked like dealmaking central. Former Viacom CEO Tom Freston had a long lunch with digital content startup's Joost CEO Mike Volpi, while Joost co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom (both also co-founded Skype) strolled through and lunched together. Harvey Weinstein, perpetually yelling into his cell phone, sat with BET founder Robert Johnson-they're trying to raise money for their "our stories film venture. I saw the pitch books they handed out in a couple attendees bags. Brad Gray sat with Terry Semel before walking over to sit with Weinstein and some big money guys, Dirk Ziff and Dan Och. Och and Ziff couldn't talk to us because they're in a quiet period for their IPO.
Warren Buffett had his usual burger and regular coke for lunch, then came over to chat, insisting he's just here to "freeload on Allen's generosity." He brought over Berkshire Hathaway director Ron Olson and the two of them discussed what a fun week this is here, with lots of conversation about how the rafting trip was cancelled because of the fires in the state. Buffett generally avoids buying companies from private equity companies, saying it's rare to find value there, but one of Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiaries just bought a jewelry store from a private equity company. He insisted his perspective on PE hasn't changed, it was just a rare exception and a very very small acquisition.
On Thursday's agenda is healthcare, with Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and then a panel on terrorism. Then there's a panel on content with Larry Page, Barry Diller and Jeff Bezos.
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