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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 17 - 23, 2002


Moguls quiet amid 
heat, poor economy

20th annual Allen and Co. 
conference reserved

Express Staff Writer

Private jets lined the tarmac last week at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey. Dozens of planes were allowed to stay at the site during the conference, but room was scarce before many of the conferees were flown out Sunday morning. Express photo by Willy Cook

Phil Knight, CEO, president and chairman of Nike, enjoys a laugh with guests of the Allen & Co. Conference. Photo by Hillary Maybery

At the conclusion Saturday of the 20th annual Allen and Co. conference in Sun Valley, a spectacular fireworks show lit up the Sun Valley Lodge and the faces of hundreds of media moguls and other spectators there to see an elaborate ice-skating show.

But, as the lights came on and a flock of smiling onlookers followed residents Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver out the front door, there was no mention of any fireworks during the five days of meetings and leisurely discussions leading up to the final event.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates takes a stroll with his wife Melinda between events at the 20th annual Allen & Co. conference. Photo by Hillary Maybery

In fact, insiders said that this year’s conference was noticeably more reserved than in the previous high-flying events held during the media-fueled stock boom of the 1990s. Yes, many of the business world’s biggest names were there, including Bill Gates, John C. Malone (billionaire chairman of Liberty Media), Robert Pittman (COO of AOL Time Warner), and Mel Karmazin (president of Viacom). They attended a catered dinner and keynote address in a sprawling tent beside the lodge Saturday evening, and political figures and other less-well-known media movers-and-shakers filled in the remainder of the seats.

Yet, there were no reports of earth-shattering deals or friendly mergers amid the 100-degree heat.

John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, talks to reporters outside the Sun Valley Lodge last week. Photo by Hillary Maybery

In fact, one report written by one of a handful of financial reporters invited to cover the event noted that much of the conversation among conferees focused on the future of Pittman, who is on the hot seat after a merger between AOL and Time Warner was followed by a freefall in ad revenues and stock values. Pittman was passed over for the CEO position of the company, and rumors flew last week that Malone may be setting himself up to join the board of directors of AOL Time Warner. However, Malone—like most in attendance at the conference—had little to say, only suggesting that he had no intention of seeking a seat on the board.

As in past years, only time will tell whether investment banker Herb Allen’s melting pot of big names and big bucks will bring forth any real changes on Wall Street and the Dow Jones ticker.


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.