Sun Valley hosts CEOs of media and tech with M&A, politics in focus

A sign for Sun Valley Resort hangs outside before the Allen & Co. annual conference.
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Attendees at the this year's Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, will have no shortage of topics to discuss.

The annual meeting of media moguls, tech titans and start-up CEOs comes on the heels of the Brexit vote, the announcement of Lions Gate buying Starz — a deal that could set the stage for media consolidation — and of course, the presidential election. In short, there's plenty of fodder for conversation among the 303 on this year's attendee list.

The private jets start arriving Tuesday for four days of panel discussions in the mornings, followed by whitewater rafting, biking and hiking in the afternoon, and plenty of one-on-one meetings throughout. This year one of the conversations will be about artificial intelligence. A panel with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is sure to address questions of free trade in a post-Brexit world. Discussions in the past have addressed health care, education and terrorism.

Some of the deals that were hatched at the Sun Valley confab in years past include Disney's acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995, Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal, Verizon's buy of AOL and Jeff Bezos' acquisition of The Washington Post in 2013.

This year there will be questions of whether there's more consolidation due in the cable space, with the Lions Gate-Starz deal following Charter buying Time Warner Cable and French giant Altice purchasing Cablevision and Suddenlink.

With these increasingly powerful giants — plus the pressure to manage the risk of cord cutting — there's increasing weight on the handful of stand-alone cable companies to look for advantages of scale. That list includes Discovery Communications — CEO David Zaslav will be attending — as well as smaller players AMC Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive, though only the latter's CEO, Ken Lowe, is on the list.

The list of attendees includes nearly all the usual suspects, from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, to Disney CEO Bob Iger, and Amazon's Bezos. There's a big contingent from Silicon Valley: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, as well as top investors such as Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel. From Los Angeles, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is a regular; Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is coming for the first time. All three Murdochs are attending, as usual — James, Lachlan, and Rupert. And Barry Diller is always in attendance with his wife fashion mogul Diane Von Furstenberg.

With a growing attention to the value of live sports — and the premium its rights draw — we can expect to see the NBA, NFL and NHL commissioners, even the head of the World Surf League. There are also a number of team owners in attendance, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

One newcomer this year: Shari Redstone, Sumner Redstone's daughter, who recently reconciled with her father amid a number of lawsuits surrounding the future of his two media empires. Redstone will likely be shown the ropes by CBS CEO Les Moonves, who she's praised publicly for his leadership of CBS, while she's criticized Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. With legal battles raging between Redstone and Dauman, the two will likely steer clear of each other at lunches and cocktail parties.

And the event is always star-studded. This year Oprah Winfrey is expected to attend, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld is on the invite list.

There are always a number of start-up CEOs on the list, potential IPO clients for Allen & Co., as well as acquisition targets for the giants in the room. In addition to Snapchat, the CEOs of Airbnb, Pinterest, Dropbox and neighborhood network Nextdoor will all be attending. The CEO of augmented reality company Magic Leap, Rony Abovitz, is attending for the second time. And the CEO of education technology company Udacity is joining; the future of education is always a hot topic at this annual event.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and