Moguls Prepare for Sun Valley Talk About Deals, Euro Crisis

2:17 PM PST 07/09/2012 by Georg Szalai
Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty Images
"Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick"

UPDATED: Deal chatter could focus on Activision, Hulu, Vevo and more with Hollywood also hoping for some discussion of new piracy measures.

Company splits, deal talk, the Facebook IPO problems and the euro crisis are expected to be among the hot topics of this week's 30th annual gathering of media, entertainment and tech moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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The outing, which is organized by boutique media investment bank Allen & Co. and has been called "summer camp" for moguls, again will bring together the CEOs of major entertainment conglomerates and tech companies -- in some cases with their wives and families. They traditionally arrive soon after July 4th -- some in their own jets -- and descend in the small mountain resort for seminars, panel discussions, as well as sporty activities like rafting, biking and fly fishing.

One of the biggest open questions debated by industry folks ahead of the outing, which starts Tuesday and is expected to kick into a higher gear Wednesday, is whether Apple CEO Tim Cook will indeed attend as is widely expected. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs hadn't traveled to Sun Valley in recent years, but observers said Cook could use some time with entertainment company CEOs to talk about new content deals, including for a long-anticipated Apple TV set or other TV product that Cook has expressed much interest in.

Sources said Cook is on the guest list and expected to attend, but Apple representatives couldn't be reached for comment.

It also remained unclear if Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and/or chief content officer Ted Sarandos would attend. The company wasn't available for comment.

Sun Valley often features a high-ranking political visitor. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others have been among the political guests of recent years. This week, Italy's prime minister Mario Monti is expected in Sun Valley, with observers expecting him to address the economic and financial challenges of his country and other Southern European nations.

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At least one observer suggested that entertainment executives would also look for an opportunity to raise the issue of piracy with their Silicon Valley peers and possible new measures to fight it following the showdown that killed the SOPA and PIPA legislation earlier this year.

Sun Valley is mostly known for its deal talk. though, having been the place where the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and other big deals were first hatched or where key players first got a chance to spend some time with one another. Some bankers have expressed hope that the recent news about News Corp.'s split and other possible deals will reignite M&A activity in the entertainment sector.

Activision Blizzard CEO and Sun Valley veteran Bobby Kotick is expected to be the focus of some deal discussions, given that French telecom and entertainment conglomerate Vivendi recently signaled an interest in selling some or all of its 60 percent stake in the video game company.

Online video joint venture Hulu -- whose owners Disney, News Corp. and NBCU considered a sale last year -- also could be a topic again. Private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners has been looking at a way to sell its 10 percent stake to either the entertainment companies behind Hulu or another investor for up to $200 million.

And Rupert Murdoch's decision to separate the entertainment and publishing assets of his News Corp. also is likely to be debated around Sun Valley's duck pond, where the moguls gather for social outings, or in the town's coffeeshops and restaurants or walking paths.

Online music video firm Vevo also will be a possible topic of debate in Sun Valley after it recently hired Allen & Co. to help it raise new financing, most likely from a tech player that could join current investors Universal Music, Sony Music and Abu Dhabi Media.

Sumner Redstone, chairman of CBS Corp. and Viacom, will continue his trend of recent years and not travel to Idaho for the gathering.

Among the moguls expected in Sun Valley though are Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman, Paramount boss Brad Grey, Liberty Media chairman John Malone, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, Universal Pictures boss Ron Meyer, Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai, Sony chairman Howard Stringer and Sony studio boss Michael Linton, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and founder John Hendricks, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey and maybe other News Corp. executives. It wasn't clear, for example, if Murdoch daughter Elisabeth, News Corp. CFO Dave DeVoe or education unit CEO Joel Klein would be along for the ride.

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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a mainstay at the mogul outing, is expected again, as is former Warner Bros. boss Terry Semel. Among powerful tech moguls, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and IAC chairman Barry Diller and his CEO Greg Blatt are expected. Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt is also traveling to Sun Valley.

Details about agenda items and sessions typically emerge only once moguls talk to press on the sidelines of the gathering during the course of the week. That is also when new tech companies that Allen & Co. brings in sometimes emerge as hot topics and popular schmoozing partners.

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