The moguls of media and tech settled into the first day of investment banker Allen & Co.’s annual retreat in Sun Valley, ID, for a morning session to hear Canada’s 45-year-old Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One of the country’s youngest leaders ever, the liberal eldest son of late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau impressed attendees by laying out a role for morality in public service.
“It was a breath of fresh air to hear him talk about campaigning and taking a harder position — how, although it’s the harder thing to do, it is the right thing to do,” said one attendee. Trudeau has fought for environmental issues and women’s rights as well as the legalization of marijuana and Senate reform.
There also was a panel discussion this morning on the Future of Cities that included Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, often mentioned as a possible veep choice for Hillary Clinton. He and an executive from Google spoke about autonomous cars, education and housing.
“It was pretty interesting to see where the future might be going,” said a member of the audience. Hickenlooper is chairman of the National Governor’s Association. and a former geologist who subsequently became involved in politics. Hickenlooper is s strong advocate of gun violence prevention legislation, and opposes capital punishment, in a state that has suffered an unusual number of mass shootings.
Silicon Valley execs are well represented at the soiree. “We all know it’s just a matter of time before one of them buys something big,” said one attendee who has been traveling to Sun Valley for many years. “They have so much money.”
The possibility, even likelihood, of consolidation is on top of everyone’s mind at Sun Valley this year. Small to mid-sized players seem ripe following Comcast’s agreement to buy DreamWorks Animation and Lionsgate’s new deal with Starz.
There’s already been a lot of chatter about what Liberty Media’s John Malone is likely to do next: He helped to engineer the Starz deal as well as Charter Communications’ recent purchase of Time Warner Cable — and is outspoken about his desire to unite what he describes as the industry’s “free radicals.”
And then there’s the mess at Viacom. CEO Philippe Dauman is trying to persuade at least two courts that 93-year-old Sumner Redstone — who controls Viacom and CBS — is not incompetent, and being manipulated by his daughter, Shari. If Dauman loses, some attendees believe some of Viacom’s cable or film assets may sold — or merged into CBS.
All eyes at Sun Valley are on Shari Redstone, who was seen chatting with CBS chief Les Moonves. Dauman is also scheduled to attend.
Others who made the trip include Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Comcast’s Brian Roberts. Disney’s well represented with CEO Bob Iger, Disney-ABC Television Group’s Ben Sherwood, ESPN’s John Skipper and former COO Tom Staggs. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s also there.
The guest list includes regulars Harvey Weinstein, DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes, Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara, and Fox’s Rupert Murdoch with his sons James (who’s CEO) and Lachlan (co-Executive Chairman).
“All the usual suspects are here and right now everyone is networking,” an attendee says. “Some people get a lot out of just being here.”
In addition to the industry talk, many are wondering about the implications for the economy and policy if there’s another terrorist attack in the U.S.
“The (presidential) election, Brexit, of course, and the long-term effect, that kind of thing is what we’ve been talking to each other about.”
The rest of the day is set aside for family activities. Executives have been attending the retreat since Herb Allen launched it in 1982.