Sunday, July 10, 2005

Top media brass in my backyard

Every year, right after the 4th of July, Allen & co. has their invitation-only event in Sun Valley where they spend $20M to entertain & educate this elite audience. The media is kept out but they camp out around the edges of the conference. After Davos, I'd guess that this event is the 2nd biggest event in terms of power players in the business world getting together. It certainly tops Davos in terms of composition of billionaires (Gates, Buffett, Brin, Page, Jobs, Murdoch, Dell, Knight, etc.). The main news that came out of the event (other than who attended) was the announcement of Morgan Freeman teaming up with Intel for something they call Clickstar. Major deals such as the ABC/Capital Cities merger were consummated here and the accompanying investment banking fees is what allows Allen & co to drop $20M per year.

You've probably never seen more private jets in one place than what you see at the little Sun Valley airport during the conference. Though they keep it well hidden, there is tremendous security. Michael Stapleton Associates, an explosives-detection security company designated and certified by the Department of Homeland Security to provide anti-terrorism technologies, provides security together with local law enforcement officials and various subcontractors. Though security is tight, it's easy to walk around the Sun Valley Village and see various celebs whether it's Barry Diller rolling by on his mountain bike or Phil Knight walking by in his signature shades.

Most locals who work the conference are discreet about what they are doing but you hear some funny stories from time to time of the high maintenance people when they go on outings such as rafting trips (e.g., you better hand them a glass of wine as they step off the raft). Otherwise, the execs try to do their best to keep it low key as one of the unique aspects is the fact that they bring their families along and the spouses and kids are entertained just as much as the execs.

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