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.