CEOs gather at
Allen & Co.
conference in Sun Valley
Express Staff Writer
tarmac at Friedman Memorial Airport is lined with polished private jets.
Elite restaurants in and around Sun Valley have stocked up on culinary
treats and fine wines. Residents up and down the Wood River Valley have
cleared their calendar for the week to take on odd jobs.
most everyone knows what the buzz is about, only a handful know who
might be discussing what this week at investment banker Herbert Allen
Jr.’s 20th annual conference of media and technology
moguls. Security at this year’s Allen & Co. event is tighter than
ever, and the guest list for Allen’s event has been guarded with
Sun Valley each July, the conference has in the past hosted business and
entertainment titans such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Ted
Turner, and Tom Hanks. Last year, Allen¾who heads his own New York
City-based firm called Allen & Co. and owns a condo in Sun
Valley¾brought in Mexican President Vicente Fox to talk about trade
relations between the United States and its sometimes jealous
south-of-the-border commercial partner. However, the event received a
deluge of unwanted media attention when it was revealed that Washington
Post publisher Katharine Graham collapsed outside her vacation rental,
was quietly whisked away, and later died in a Boise hospital.
year, guests started arriving over the Fourth of July weekend, and a
detailed schedule of events for the scores of conferees started on
Tuesday morning. Through Saturday, they will participate in a flurry of
events that were planned months in advance, including golf, tennis,
hiking, fly fishing, and whitewater rafting. Daily business
meetings¾whether they are on a par-3 at the golf links or in a
conference room at the Sun Valley Lodge¾will bring together unusual
pairings of CEOs and influential faces from Hollywood, Silicon Valley
and Wall Street.
Allen & Co. will pick up the extraordinary tab for the event,
company executives hope that the heavy doses of clean, mountain air and
leisure activities will foster something other than summertime
relaxation. What they’re really after is a share of earth-shattering
business deals that might take place, such as the one in 1995 when Walt
Disney Chairman Michael Eisner struck a deal to purchase Capital Cities
Communications and ABC for $19 billion.
the 20th anniversary billing, little is being said about this
week’s affair. No press releases were issued, and only a select few
outsiders—all of whom are instructed to keep quiet about the goings on—are
allowed to view or participate in the events.
Cosgriff, managing director of Allen & Co., said that scheduled
events for the conference will be held throughout Sun Valley through
July 13. "We want people to get out and enjoy the area," he
said, noting that no special events have been planned as part of the 20th
anniversary. "I think it will be similar to other years."
Wood River Valley residents—many of whom have been screened and hired
by Allen & Co. to serve the guests as drivers, baby-sitters,
caterers and tour guides—oblige in the company’s requests to keep
the event as low profile as possible. In return, local employees earn
steep hourly wages and generous end-of-the-week tips.
the quiet cooperation of valley locals has played a large part in making
the conference an annual event.
consider ourselves guests, and appreciate all that people have done for
us," Cosgriff said. "The entire valley has been very good to
the local employees are screened to ensure they will not be a security
risk, and even baby-sitters are asked to sign confidentiality agreements
assuring they will not divulge information on conferees. (This year they
have been asked to wear matching company-issued shirts while working for
do not work directly for the conference can benefit as well. Carol
Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of
Commerce, said that the week’s expenditures by Allen and his guests
pump "millions of dollars" into the local economy. "They
are a very high-end group," she said. "I would say that their
average daily expenditures would far exceed that of the average
residents in the Wood River Valley have expressed concern that the
annual bonanza of temporary, high-paying service jobs will expire
because of growing concern among organizers about providing security for
such a large group of high-profile collaborators. However, Cosgriff said
that he sees the annual conference continuing into the future.
"Currently, we have no plans to end it," he said. "I see
Cosgriff declined to offer a list of guests or events, it appears that
the Allen conference is still the place for the nation’s high-rollers
to be this week. Rick Baird, manager of Friedman Memorial Airport, said
that he expects 40 to 60 private jets to be stationed at the airport at
various times this week. "It will be extremely busy here," he
said. "It will be hard to find places for jets to park," he
said, noting that air traffic in and out has not been unusually high.
the golf courses, tennis courts, and hiking trails will be busy this
week. But, in the wake of revelations of bogus accounting practices
employed by such notable firms as Enron and WorldCom, and investor
confidence down across the nation, many outsiders are wondering if
conferees will be talking more about their golf swings than mergers and