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Here’s a look into Sun Valley’s ‘Summer Camp For Millionaires’: NPR



From left to right, Dana Blumberg stands next to her boyfriend, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as they speak after a session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on Thursday in Sun Valley, Idaho. Top executives across media, technology and sports gathered for their annual event known as the “Summer Camp for Billionaires.”

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From left to right, Dana Blumberg stands next to her boyfriend, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as they speak after a session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on Thursday in Sun Valley, Idaho. Top executives across media, technology and sports gathered for their annual event known as the “Summer Camp for Billionaires.”

Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

This is unlike any summer camp you’ve ever heard of.

After a one-year hiatus, hundreds of the world’s most powerful people in technology, media and markets once again made the pilgrimage to Sun Valley, Idaho, to attend an exclusive conference hosted by investment bank Allen & Company.

Widely known as the “summer camp for billionaires”, attendees from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg attended Apple’s Tim Cook for a week of outdoor activities such as hiking and tennis – and of course networking and lots of dealmaking.

Due to the pandemic, the family-run investment company canceled the event last year for the first time in its history. This year, Allen & Co. saw appear to be determined to continue right where they left off. Or as close to it as possible.

Here are five takeaways from the 38th Sun Valley Conference:

The pandemic is changing things

It was easy to see signs of the pandemic reality all around and how it has changed our notion of what is normal.

The participants in this year’s conference had to be fully vaccinated, and on arrival everyone had to take a COVID-19 test. In the lobby of Sun Valley Lodge, nurses from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic were ready to administer them.

Due to the pandemic, several of the conference cases were held outside. Programming took place in the Sun Valley Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater, against the backdrop of Dollar Mountain. Billionaires broke bread at tables near a pond outside the Sun Valley Inn.

A sign is seen at the entrance to the Sun Valley Resort prior to the Sun Valley conference hosted by Allen & Co. in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 5th.

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A sign is seen at the entrance to the Sun Valley Resort prior to the Sun Valley conference hosted by Allen & Co. in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 5th.

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Perhaps the most noticeable change had to do with children, or rather, the lack of them.

Allen & Co. has usually been a family-friendly affair, and it has added to its status not to be missed by moguls. Years earlier, the investment firm had arranged pool trips, parties at Sun Valley Lake and games for children and Allen & Co. would hire dozens of local teens to work as babysitters.

Not this year.

Due to pandemic restrictions, children were not allowed. Their absence made the event feel more subdued than previous years.

But then again, some things never change

It is, after all, “summer camp”, albeit for a rare set of people.

As usual, most participants traveled by private jet. Before the conference began, the manager of Friedman Memorial Airport in nearby Hailey, Idaho, said he expected more than 90 private jets. By Thursday, several dozen of them were visible.

As in years past, there were sumptuous lunches and dinners, albeit al fresco. Caterers took over a restaurant in the middle of the resort to prepare meals. There were also plenty of opportunities for golf and kayaking or just a stroll to take in the mountain air.

And of course there was also dealmaking, all behind closed doors – or more precisely, behind tall hedge trees and heavy security.

Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to photographers as he attends the Sun Valley conference on Thursday.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to photographers as he attends the Sun Valley conference on Thursday.

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After all, Allen & Co. pays. for the whole event with the understanding that it will eventually get a cut of every deal that comes out of the conference.

It is reported that the AOL-Time Warner agreement was hatched at the conference. Then there was Walt Disney’s acquisition of CapCities / ABC and Comcast’s deal with NBCUniversal.

This year’s conference came shortly after Discovery announced a deal to buy WarnerMedia, which includes CNN, HBO and Warner Bros.

So who was there this year?

Invitations to the conference are highly sought after among tech titans and media moguls, but the conference guest list does not change that much from year to year.

In fact, one of the favorite pastimes is to see who has been seen with whom. This week, for example, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos was spotted with NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Outside Sun Valley Lodge, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chatted with Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots.

When video game producer Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, arrived at the resort, Imagine Entertainment founder Brian Grazer gave him a big hug.

Then there are appearances that attract speculation for other reasons.

Just hours after The New York Times published an upcoming book excerpt describing a suspected outburst between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, the two siblings showed up together and smiled and presented a united front in front of a group of photographers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joins Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Sun Valley conference.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joins Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Sun Valley conference.

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And often absences can attract as much attention as those who are there. Rupert Murdoch took e.g. Not the trip this year.

A big question was whether Bezos would perform. It was no wonder why: He just handed over the reins of the company to a new CEO, Andy Jassy, ​​and he’s preparing to take a trip to space later this month.

In the end, the lure of the Sun Valley was apparently too strong. On Thursday, he and his girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, strolled past a group of journalists gathered outside Sun Valley Lodge. (Jassy also came to the conference.)

Sshh … It’s off-the-record

For journalists, Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference a strange event to cover. Journalists and photographers are only allowed to ask questions and take pictures from a handful of “pens” – small, fenced-in areas outside the Sun Valley Lodge and near the Sun Valley Inn.

Because so much of the conference took place outside of this year, journalists were kept even further away than usual. There seemed to be more security and participants seemed less likely to interact with journalists.

But of course, moguls have products and services to sell, and you can’t do that without any media exposure. CNBC set up a studio on the side of a nearby mountain, and several attendees sat down for interviews, including Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

NPR scored its own exclusive interview with IAC chairman Barry Diller, claiming that the film industry “is over.”

And at a time when some journalists may be as famous or even more famous than some of the contestants, it is natural that some media members do not attend to cover the events, but to hobknob as contestants.

Among the media members who attended the event were CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Van Jones; Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times and CNBC; CBS News’s Gayle King; and The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

And then there’s Sun Valley mode

Of course, no revaluation of Allen & Co. would. Sun Valley Conference be complete without a reference to fashion – or lack thereof, depending on one’s perspective.

Part of what makes it so unique is the dress code. No matter if you are world famous. Almost everyone has casual clothes and a simple name tag.

In recent years, Allen & Co. each participant a Patagonia fleece – a vest or a jacket with the bank logo embroidered on the chest. This year, perhaps because Patagonia has decided to stop adding company logos to its clothing, fleece was out.

IAC Chairman Barry Diller goes to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on Wednesday in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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IAC Chairman Barry Diller goes to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on Wednesday in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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Instead of cool mornings, guests wore softer outerwear. WndrCo CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, for example, wore a navy vest from the Zero Restriction brand, as did Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and The Home Depot founder Ken Langone.

And of course, this was the hoodies like the one seen by the 79-year-old Diller, as this was the top brass in technology.

Whether Sun Valley or hoodies, some trends, as they say, never go out of fashion.


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