Friday, July 8, 2011

Moguls mix, but stay mostly mum

Media, tech magnates convene in annual Sun Valley retreat


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Television icon Oprah Winfrey talks to reporters Thursday at the Allen & Co. conference. Photo by David N. Seelig

Secrecy and buzz endured in equal measure this week, as media and technology giants converged upon Allen & Co.'s annual retreat in Sun Valley.

Although the agenda and guest list are never made public, celebrities and leaders of the business world are sometimes seen around the Sun Valley area.

In an early highlight of the conference, television reporter Charlie Rose interviewed Oprah Winfrey, as journalists from around the nation gathered outside in an attempt to glean information about possible business deals.

The conference began Wednesday and runs through Saturday. On Friday, journalist Tom Brokaw is scheduled to interview New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who some Americans are hoping will enter the GOP presidential primary race. On Saturday, billionaire software developer Bill Gates is scheduled to interview Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is expected to speak on Saturday as well.

Also in attendance is News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, who is managing a crisis at one of his news outlets in the United Kingdom. News Corp. is embroiled in controversy over alleged phone hacking at his British tabloid News of the World. The New York Times reported Thursday that Murdoch's son announced that News Corp. would shut down the paper next week in an effort to stem the growing tide of criticism.

Claims abound regarding possible phone hacking of a 13-year-old murder victim and relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as allegations that News of the World bribed police for information, the Times reported.

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Speculation of another sort brewed during the week. In attendance at Sun Valley are some of the owners of video-streaming service Hulu—Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal. Disney CEO Robert Iger told Bloomberg reporters that they are "committed to selling," according to a July 6 posting on Bloomberg.com. Because major business deals often are made during the Allen & Co. retreat, the business media is on high alert for news of a deal.

A relaxed and amicable Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony Corp., made his way through Sun Valley Village on Wednesday, stopping to talk with reporters and photographers.

When asked what he would do for enjoyment this week, he told the Idaho Mountain Express that he will be occupied by meetings.

"I won't have any leisure time," he said. He would, however, plan leisurely meetings, where "much is spoken about but little is done," he joked.

Stringer is no stranger to the area, having visited in both winter and summer seasons.

"I love this place," he said.

On one winter visit as he was skiing on Bald Mountain, a Sun Valley ski instructor notified him of the birth of his son.

"It's not every day your son is born when you're on top of a mountain," he said.

Reporters and photographers are relegated to an area on the village mall during the event. After talking with the media, Stringer came back to the journalists' corral to deliver brownies to those gathered there.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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