The second day of talks and panels drew high praise from those attending Herb Allen’s Sun Valley retreat in Idaho — and yes there were sightings of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner who, as one mogul said, “were trying to keep a low profile.” Ummm, kinda hard to do these days.
Nike founder and now chairman emeritus Phil Knight was first up today and interviewed by CNBC’s Becky Quick about the future of retail and how automation might play a part in the future. “It was fantastic,” said one executive. “He talked about building a company and shared some of his war stories” (many of those came from his memoir Shoe Dog).
Knight said that automation will become more prevalent and then talked about the social impact that might come from that — both the pros and cons. Not surprisingly, he noted that the brick and mortar retail business will continue to decrease as consumer spending grows online but some consumer products are safer — like (not surprisingly) shoes — and shoppers will still want to buy those products in retail stores.
His comments comes less than a month after Nike and Amazon agreed to a deal where Nike would start selling its products on the online shopping site. Nike’s sudden embrace to the e-commerce giant was a noted shift in how the shoe giant had been selling its wares. But it was so obvious the shoe company had to make a change: In recent years, it was finding itself competing with third-party sales on Amazon, so the deal was prudent. Knight has certainly seen the landscape change from when he started the company decades ago with only an idea and about $500. Knight who is also a philanthropist is now worth over $26 Billion.
Next came the panel “A Country Divided” which Tom Brokaw moderated. There were five people on that one talking about the current state of socio-economic divisions and race relations. The panelists included retired basketball great and Inside the NBA‘s Charles Barkley, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company), J.D. Vance who authored the New York Times bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, former D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier who is now head of security for the National Football League and then also a Rhodes scholar whose specialty is race relations and poverty.
“It was a lot with a five-person panel, but it was very interesting. We need to find commonalities was the basic message,” said one person who attended the panel.
“Yeah, that people have more in common than they don’t,” said another. “The basic thing is really it’s just great that more and more people are talking about this.”
King Abdullah II from Jordan then spoke one-on-one with talk show host Charlie Rose for the clincher talk of the day before people broke to return calls and then head back into dinner. Overall, the entire tone of the conference so far is “a lot more optimistic than I thought it would be,” said one exec, given that the country (and the media) is in such a state right now of divisiveness.
Tomorrow is also packed full of panels and discussions: Gayle King will moderate a talk about the drug (opiate) epidemic in this country, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates will be interviewed by New York Times’ journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin and the president of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Juan Manuel Santos will speak. On Saturday it will be CIA day with the former director George Tenet interviewing the current director, Mike Pompeo.