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Sun Valley’s eventful week: Zuckerberg, jet overload, WSJ feature, NBC & CBS owners huddle

After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sun Valley Resort once again lit up with bigwigs from the nation’s media, tech and political establishment for the annual Allen & Co. conference.

As our Anna Daly Gamboa noted Monday, the net worth of the folks in attendance at the conference could reach more than a trillion dollars (Jeff Bezos alone is worth $211 billion and Bill Gates is worth $129 billion… so that’s a third of the trillion right there).

Big news is often hatched at Sun Valley – like Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post – but we often don’t learn about it until later. Here’s a roundup of some of the reports out of Central Idaho this week:

  • Jet lags: Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey was so overrun with jets on Tuesday that the FAA had to put in place a “ground stop,” according to Business Insider. That affected flights from the West Coast to as far away as Michicgan.
  • Stroll for show? I’ve attended the conference as a member of the pesky media a few times over the years – and you are pretty limited in where you can go. The Very Important People tend to dart from place to place and avoid cameras if at all possible. But yesterday, hours after the New York Times released a book excerpt that said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg had drifted apart… the two just happened to be strolling along together near the Lodge… right by Bloomberg TV cameras.
  • NBC & CBS owners meet up: Shari Redstone, who controls ViacomCBS – and Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast (which owns NBC) were said to meet up, according to the NY Post. After the announcement earlier this year that WarnerMedia and Discovery would combine to better compete with Netflix and Disney, some media observers wondered if there could be some combination of ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal in the future. Speaking of… The Post says Disney and Netflix heads also spent some time together in the Sun Valley Village, too.
  • What they’re talking about: Variety reported on some of the sessions rolling out this week. Shopify CEO Tobias Lutkey talked about e-commerce on Tuesday, and folks attended sessions on the current economic climate and criminal justice reform. Yesterday, Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg held a session on creativity, and another meeting focused on immigration reform. Today, Bill Gates is talking about climate change while another forum will “be devoted to leading during trouble (sic) times,” according to Variety. Tomorrow, the meetings will wrap up with former Republican Secretary of State James Baker interviewing Warren Buffett.
  • Ketchum’s struggles in the WSJ: The Wall Street Journal launched the week with a feature on the economic struggles of the Sun Valley area: “Businesses in this community of 2,700, located in central Idaho near the Sun Valley ski resort, are struggling to fill open positions, forcing some to cut hours. Some workers live in trailers or tents in the Sawtooth National Forest. And the waiting list for the 113 affordable-housing units for sale or rent in surrounding Blaine County is yearslong.”
  • Idaho impact: In 2019, the last time I travelled to the resort during the conference, I talked to economic officials about the impact it has on Idaho. Rereading that story, one quote stuck out to me in light of the cancellation last year: “This is an anchor in their summer season,” Harry Griffith with Sun Valley Economic Development told me in 2019. “Without Allen & Company, a retail shop might have one less employee. They know they can rely on two being full during the week, with the participants, security details and setup teams.”
  • Drama and life: Succession, the HBO drama that sends up some member of the Sun Valley set released the trailer for its new season… on the first day of the SV conference.
Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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