At Sun Valley, Tech & Media Moguls Face Long To-Do List
While the Independence Day holiday is over, the media and tech industry is readying its own brand of fireworks as a veritable who's who of executives and up-and-comers descend on a tiny town in Idaho for Allen & Company's idyllic Sun Valley Conference.
Past years have been especially eventful, with mergers resulting (Disney buying ABC/Capital Cities, then buying Marvell), charitable partnerships struck (Mark Zuckerberg donating $100 million in Facebook stock to Newark, NJ) and strategic future relationships forged (like Allen & Co. nabbing advisory roles on some of the biggest IPOs and deals of the last three decades).
This year is no different, as the technology, media and telecoms (commonly mashed together as “TMT”) continue to change face overnight.
A sampling of the current events expected to come to the fore this week:
- A New Yahoo!?
As I reported last week, Yahoo!’s board will meet on Wednesday in an attempt to put in place the company’s third CEO in as many years ahead of Thursday’s shareholder meeting. Activist investor Dan Loeb previously pushed for former global media head Ross Levinsohn to nab the top spot, where Levinsohn has been serving in the interim and remains the frontrunner.
- Facebook Defends Itself.
Facebook’s top three execs — Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and CFO David Ebersman — all plan to attend this year’s confab (according to a person familiar with the plans), where they’ll have much explaining to do. As the newly public social network faces its first-ever quarterly earnings, are its mobile advances working? Will it seek to rival LinkedIn ? How will its new friendship with Yahoo! work? And perhaps most importantly: Does going public now mean going to the wolves?
- Vivendi Starts Shrinking.
The age-old media conglomerate wants to get smaller, and it’s ruling out nothing: Steep cost cuts, asset sales, and exiting a massive, multibillion-dollar stake it’s held in Activision Blizzard . The company also faces a hefty $2 billion payout for its EMI purchase – which may not even happen. What now for big media of yore?
- Sony Gets Smaller, Too.
Can Kaz Hirai breathe new life into the struggling electronics giant? Sony posted a record loss in its last quarter, forfeiting bonuses for Hirai and predecessor Sir Howard Stringer (both to attend Sun Valley). The company’s investing in music publishing, while shedding 10,000 jobs and facing fledgling sales of its flat TVs. At the end of the day, what will Sony call “core” business?
- Tablet Wars Heat Up.
The 2010 conference was all about the iPad, even though CEO emeritus Steve Jobs, expected to win over content distributors for the new tablet, was a no-show. This year, CEO Tim Cook is slated to appear — a rarity for an Apple exec — just as the stakes are rising in the tablet wars. Reports claim Apple suppliers are producing parts for a miniature iPad — an unwelcome rival to Microsoft’s Surface, Google’s Nexus, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
- A New Day for News Corp.
News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch was driven to close his 136-year old tabloid after a scandal erupted at last year’s conference over phone hacking. In the meantime, Murdoch bought back billions in stock, faced regulators head on, launched a Sunday replacement of the Sun, and announced that his newspaper business – thought to be writhing under the weight of litigation – will now standalone. Is the Murdoch fortress impenetrable?
- Who’s in This Year’s Freshman Class?
Every year, Allen & Company invites an elite few entrepreneurs to the conference to hobnob with bankers, venture backers, and media bigwigs. Last year, all eyes were on Dropbox, Quora and AirBnB. Who will get this year’s golden tickets?
And that’s not even accounting for all the politicking that will no doubt ensue. Will New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg be caught drinking an extra-large soda? Will Chris Christie make more mentions of a potential VPOTUS run, piggybacking on his comments on Squawk Box?
Just because Idaho is several time zones away from Europe doesn’t mean the festering debt crisis won’t come up: Perhaps the biggest questions will face the prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti, is reported to be attending. (Even if he can’t talk yields on his country’s debt down, we’re sure he’ll look great in a fleece vest.)
Stay Tuned: CNBC's Sun Valley coverage, the annual media and tech conference, kicks off on Tuesday, July 10.
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-By CNBC's Kayla Tausche
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