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Power-elite gather at Sun Valley

Mexico’s president to attend conference

Express Staff Writer

Mexico’s free-trade and pro-business President Vicente Fox is scheduled to visit Sun Valley this week to address America’s wealthiest business people at the annual Allen & Co. conference of media moguls.

Vicente Fox, President of MexicoVicente Fox, President of Mexico

Fox, who rose to power last year promising to build economic ties with the United States by expanding NAFTA, plans to meet Saturday with the likes of Walt Disney Co.’s Michael Eisner, Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch.

Organizers of the highly secretive conference have not released Fox’s agenda or even acknowledged the annual gathering is taking place.

"Our conference … has always been a family event where our guests have been able to enjoy their privacy as they would on vacation," host Herbert Allen Jr. wrote in a letter to the press in 1999.

Past conferences also have been high-stakes, deal-making schmooze-fests that usually net at least one industry-shaking transaction. Most famous, was Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1995.

The Mexican president is scheduled to arrive in Sun Valley late Friday evening, said Miguel Monterrubio, press secretary of the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC. Fox, 59, leaves early Sunday morning.

"To strengthen relations [with potential trading partners] and enhance contacts with Hispanic groups," Fox also will travel to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee, Monterrubio said. Fox plans to meet with elected officials, business executives and the National Council of La Raca Hispanic advocacy group, among others.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, along with officials, industry leaders and educators from Idaho, visited Mexico during a trade mission in May. The group toured, among others, the facilities of Bimbo, a major international snack-food maker, and Sabritas, the Mexican equivalent of Frito Lay.

At Los Pinos — Mexico’s White House — Kempthorne invited Fox to visit Idaho, the governor’s press secretary Mark Snider said Monday. However, as past CEO of the Mexican Coca-Cola company, Fox "probably earned an invitation on his own" from Allen & Co. convention organizers, Snider said.

Snider would not say whether Kempthorn plans to also attend this year’s 19th annual convention in Sun Valley. But the press secretary confirmed that the governor did attend last year.

Mike Fithen, a U.S. Secret Service special agent, said a security detail with agents from around the country and from the Dignitary Protection Division in Washington, DC "will be present" in the Wood River Valley because of the arrival of Fox and other dignitaries.

Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said he met with Secret Service agents and Mexican security agents Monday to coordinate security efforts.

"I’m not aware that any disruption of traffic" will occur from motorcades or other security measures, Daggett said.

Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said an officer from his department also met with the head of an Allen & Co. private security force.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling declined to comment on how his office was involved with security.

Hailey airport manager Rick Baird said ground crews are gearing up to deal with the 90 corporate jets expected to inundate the airport with arriving convention participants. The heaviest air traffic was expected to occur Tuesday as planes arrived, and Saturday and Sunday, when planes depart.

Baird said he has had no contact with the Secret Service and that no extra attention would be given to security at the airport.

"There’s people of [Fox’s] stature that come in and out of here all the time," Baird said. "So, we’re used to it."

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.