local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 public meetings

 previous edition

 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info
 classifieds info
 internet info
 sun valley central
 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs
Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Business, media stars convene at favorite resort

Money and security abound at Allen & Co. conference

Express Staff Writer

As the 22nd annual Allen & Co. conference drew to a close over the weekend, Sun Valley Resort General Manager Wally Huffman flashed a broad smile.

Craig Barnett, CEO of Intel, exits the Sun Valley Inn Saturday after a meeting in the Limelight Room conference center. Express photo by Willy Cook

The five-day conference, hosted in Sun Valley by New York City investment banker Herbert Allen, had once again succeeded in supplying the world’s most prominent media and technology executives with a glistening dose of Rocky Mountain hospitality.

Scores of corporate-world titans, including Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner, had repeatedly convened in the plush surroundings of the Limelight Room conference center and shared gourmet lunches in the Idaho sun.

"When I retire, I want to come here back as a guest," Huffman quipped.

This year, more than 400 business icons and their family members attended the Sun Valley conference. The conference—which started on Tuesday, July 6, and concluded Saturday, July 10—might not have produced any earth-shattering buyouts or mergers, but it apparently did impress many of the high-profile visitors.

"From what I saw and what I heard, it went just fantastic," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort spokesman. "Everything, they said, went just great."

Sun Valley Resort in the last two years has invested millions of dollars to improve Sun Valley Resort’s lodging and conference facilities, largely in an effort to retain the favor of Allen & Co. and other conference organizers.

Allen, who controls one of the nation’s most influential—and clandestine—investment houses, has hosted a conference in Sun Valley every summer since 1982.

Stanley Kroenke, the owner of vast real-estate holdings in Denver as well as the Denver Nuggets basketball team and Colorado Avalanche hockey team, strolls through Sun Valley Village. Express photo by Willy Cook

The event, which garners nationwide media coverage and worldwide interest, is intended to foster deals and relationships among power brokers and investors working from Wall Street to Hollywood to Silicon Valley. However, the proceedings are closed to the media.

Meanwhile, the guests’ kids are encouraged to attend, and are looked after by a small army of babysitters and entertained with hayrides, bowling parties, movies and the like.

Pumping millions of dollars into the local resort economy, the conference has become a key component to the success of Sun Valley Resort and many smaller businesses in Ketchum.

"I think it’s a great piece of business for the whole Wood River Valley," Sibbach said.

The guest list this year, as in the past, was a veritable "Who’s Who" of the media world, sports world and Fortune 500. Besides Gates and Eisner, the group of familiar faces included NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, Intel CEO Craig Barnett, NBA Commissioner David Stern and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch.

George Tenet, the embattled director of the CIA whose resignation became effective last weekend, was spotted Saturday amid heavy security.

This year’s conference got under way in earnest Wednesday with an interview of Murdoch by Barry Diller, a longtime media heavyweight who helped Murdoch launch the Fox broadcast network a decade ago. Paul Martin, the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada, gave a presentation Tuesday.

With so many moguls collaborating freely, expectations of major business deals occurring at the conference are typically high. At the 1996 conference, Walt Disney Co. executives brokered a deal to acquire Capital Cities/ABC.

Shelby Bonnie, CEO of CNET Networks, right, takes a break from a series of lectures and outdoor activities during the 22nd annual Allen & Co. conference. Express photo by Willy Cook

Last week, Murdoch was spotted chatting in the Duchin Lounge with Charles Ergen, the EchoStar Communications Corp. chief with whom Murdoch engaged in a protracted struggle over satellite broadcaster DirecTV, which Murdoch eventually won.

Washington Post Co. chairman Donald Graham had a lengthy talk with Les Moonves, the CBS chief who was made co-chief operating officer of media giant Viacom Inc. last month, but Graham said it was strictly a friendly chat.

"We’re old friends," he said.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett was spotted on the resort’s grounds along with several family members, including his son Howard, who is in line to succeed him as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Tom Freston, the head of MTV and co-chief operating officer of Viacom Inc. along with Moonves, went skeet shooting, while Brian Roberts, chief of Comcast Corp., rented bikes with his kids. Media investor Gordon Crawford went fly-fishing.

Ergen, who opted for white-water rafting, one of the most popular activities, says he enjoyed the challenge of being around very bright people.

"People enjoy being surrounded by those who are smarter than they are—that’s how you get smarter, right?"

As usual, security at the event was very tight. The full guest list was never released to the public. Members of the press corps—which this year included journalists from The New York Times, Bloomberg News and Associated Press—were barred from entering organized events and lectures but milled freely about Sun Valley Village.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

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.