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Inside Idaho: Sun Valley lights up with stars… of the billionaire variety


Each year, usually the week after the Fourth of July, big names flock to Sun Valley in their private jets. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, and… that Jeff Bezos guy… to name a few.

After a year when the only stars to be found were in Sun Valley’s night sky due to the pandemic, the Allen and Company Conference is back on in 2021.

Executives from the biggest and most influential tech and media companies will gather behind closed doors. The topics are kept secret and confidential.

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Exclusive event

Friedman Memorial Airport
Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey in July. 2019 Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev file

Executives from the biggest and most influential tech and media companies will gather behind closed doors. The topics are kept secret and confidential.

“This week, the aggregate wealth of the men and women staying at the Sun Valley Resort is likely to reach more than $1 trillion,” according to an NPR article.

The conference is organized and operated by private investment firm, Allen and Company, which is known for avoiding publicity and its work in technology, media and entertainment.

[2019: Annual spotlight on Sun Valley helps Idaho’s economy in ways large and small]

The week isn’t all work though – hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains and rafting trips down the Salmon River are also on the agenda. The dress code? Casual – with lots of sweater vests and Patagonia.

“The gathering is geared towards one thing: building relationships that may one day pay off in the shape of a major deal,” NPR noted. Jeff Bezos for example supposedly bought The Washington Post when he was in Sun Valley.

While folks who aren’t invited can’t get into the conference itself, media camp outside the event and wait for a chance to catch photos of stars like Oprah Winfrey.

This year, the Wall Street Journal reports some sessions will be held outside, and other COVID-19 protocols will be in place.

Boost to Idaho

Harry Griffith, Executive Director of Sun Valley Economic Development told BoiseDev in 2019 there are direct, tangible impacts from the conference. Full restaurants, hotel rooms and retail shops bring dollars. But, while harder to measure, the brand cachet the conference brings helps build the area’s economy.

“If you turn on CNBC (in the) morning you are going to see the Sawtooths in the background,” he said. “You are going to see Sun Valley and what’s going on and the history of the (Allen & Co.) event. That all helps with the brand and marketing perspective.”

Griffith said the influx of visitors may come back – and continue spending dollars down the road.

Matt Borud, Marketing and Innovation Administrator for the Idaho Department of Commerce says the exposure and attention have positive impacts for tourism in Sun Valley, and business in Idaho in general.

“I think any time Idaho is mentioned with this category of individual, whether it’s from an economic development perspective or a travel and tourism perspective, it’s obviously good for us,” Borud said.

So next time there is a monumental deal in tech or media, it’s possible it sprouted in Sun Valley, Idaho.

BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed reporting.

Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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