If it seems especially quiet this week in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and Wall Street, that’s because all the usual suspects among infotainment moguls, tech founders and other corporate plutocrats have jetted to Sun Valley for the annual summer sleep away known as the Camp Allen investment confab. I find it interesting that, after years of secrecy, then years of press pimping, the infamous Allen & Co. retreat is marking its 25th anniversary by once again being on the down-low. I hear one of the reasons is that Terry Semel’s Yahoo! screwed up last year and put up dozens of photos of knobby kneed billionaires in their Camp Allen casual wear. (Which I promptly posted on my website and poked fun at.) Within a day, those photos were removed from Yahoo! This year, new hanging plants are blocking photographers’ shots. Also, Herbert Allen and colleagues have moved heaven and earth this time around to make sure the schedule isn’t available to the media. But here it is, courtesy of me:
Time Warner and Microsoft will be giving the big presentations (could Herbert have found two more foundering companies?) The Oracle Of Omaha, Warren Buffett, will talk. So will Michael Bloomberg, the NYC mayor and possible independent presidential candidate, and Tony Blair, the disgraced ex-British prime minister. Topics for the lectures and panel discussions include “Modern Investing”, “Health Care” (same as last year’s, although this time these guys should be screening Sicko), “New Breed”, “Content Is King”, and “Era Of Conflict”. The general concensus is that, sometime between now and Saturday, a deal for Facebook could go down. After all, Google’s $1.6 bil takeover of YouTube came out of casual meetings at last year’s event. Then again, Facebook already turned down a billion-dollar offer from Yahoo!
The New York Times media writer David Carr is on site though schedule-less, and I wonder if the Wall Street Journal will take another serious look at “media-mogul fashion” from Camp Allen as the newspaper did last year. (Perhaps sowing the seeds for Rupert’s discontent with its criticism of Murdoch for wearing the same cable knit tennis sweater two days in a row and sporting orange tones “too strong for his complexion”.) I’ve written about Camp Allen so often — my latest was last year’s Moguls Will Be Moguls — that I feel like these bratty kids’ counselor. What burns me is that the rich and powerful sit around that proverbial campfire while shareholders get toasted like marshmallows for investing in so many of these failing conglomerates.