Sun Valley's most significant deals

4:54 PM PST 07/05/2010 by Paul Bond, AP

Not all major transactions have been successful

In 1982, Allen & Co. sold its controlling share in Columbia Pictures to Coca-Cola. Shortly thereafter, the closely held investment bank created a media conference in Sun Valley.

The originally modest gathering has grown into a premier event each July where moguls schmooze, forge relationships -- and sometimes negotiate major transactions.

For 27 years, tales surfaced about an endless list of famous attendees -- Bill Gates, Sumner Redstone, Warren Buffett, LeBron James, Rupert Murdoch -- who meet in a bar or by a duck pond and casually begin conversations with, "what if...?"

Sometimes these off-the-cuff tetes-a-tetes end months later with a deal worth millions, or even billions.

One of the most significant deals that seemingly got its start during the Sun Valley retreat happened at the 1996 event; three weeks later, Disney purchased CapCities/ABC for $19 billion, an acquisition that brought Robert Iger to the Mouse House. Nine years later, Iger succeeded MIchael Eisner as CEO.

But not all deals have been as successful as the Disney-ABC merger, prompting some former attendees to advise: Beware the temptation to make hasty decisions in Sun Valley's gorgeous and relaxed setting.

In 2000, AOL used its wildly overpriced stock to purchase Time Warner for about $164 billion. The combination was hatched in part during a meeting six months earlier at Sun Valley between AOL chief Steve Case and Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin

In 2001, Disney chairman-CEO Michael Eisner was reportedly convinced on a hike with Haim Saban that News Corp. was on the verge of selling Fox Family Channel to a rival, a suggestion that spurred Eisner to pay $5.2 billion for the entity, as much as $2 billion more than it was worth.

More recently, in 2007 there was lots of chatter at Sun Valley about Dow Jones being on the block and an offer for a piece of it was already on the table from Brad Greenspan, a co-founder of MySpace. But Rupert Murdoch swooped and picked off the property for $5 billion.

And at last year's event, Comcast co-founder Ralph Roberts and COO Steve Burke met up with GE chief Jeff Immelt and discussed the possibility of GE selling a controlling interest in NBC Universal to the cable giant. A deal, worth around $30 billion, was announced five months later and is still under federal review.
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