The Allen & Co. annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, has been attracting media and technology moguls since its debut in the 1980s, and it is considered practically a given that some merger and acquisition deals will be hatched there. A year ago, for example, the gathering yielded a deal whereby Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos paid $250 million to acquire the Washington Post. Here’s a few possibilities for this year’s conference, which runs Tuesday-Sunday.
1. 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch is reportedly interested in acquiring Time Warner, run by CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, and both men are expected to attend the conference. As of Monday, Wall Street valued 21st Century Fox at $79.4 billion and Time Warner at $62.7 billion. Murdoch and his company have enough cash and leverage to pay a premium for Time Warner, and both have shed their legacy print assets, leaving them antsy to grow into the largest TV and movie content companies. Of course, Bewkes will be mindful of another deal that had its genesis at the Allen & Co. conference: the merger of AOL and Time Warner, perhaps the biggest debacle in the history of corporate America.
2. David Zaslav is expected at the conference, and observers presume that the CEO of Discovery Communications is on the lookout for acquisitions, perhaps of Scripps Networks Interactive, the parent of HGTV and the Food Network that sported an $11.6 billion market capitalization Monday compared with $26.5 billion for Discovery. Also attending Sun Valley is Disney CEO Bob Iger, who reportedly wants to make a play for Discovery. If that’s the case, though, Wall Street doesn’t seem to be buying it, considering shares of Discovery fell 1 percent Monday and are down 6 percent in the past month.
3. AT&T is in midst of trying to get approval to acquire DirecTV for $48.5 billion, and expected in Sun Valley this year is Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Communications, a chief AT&T rival. While McAdam has dismissed the idea of acquiring a large media company, he said recently that Verizon “would love to partner with content companies” to bring more premium video to mobile devices. Earlier this year, Verizon acquired Intel Media, a developer of next-generation video services. Verizon also looked into purchasing Hulu, a company that was a hot topic at the 2011 Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley. So while the purchase of major media entities may be off the table, Verizon certainly seems interested in the acquisition of smaller ones.
4. Harvey Weinstein is expected at the conference, and he’ll no doubt be looking to see how much he could get for The Weinstein Co.’s TV unit should the co-chairman decide it should be sold off. The mogul, though, is also reportedly considering a spinoff or even an initial public offering for the TV division, which has enjoyed successes like Project Runway and Mob Wives and is making The Ten Commandments miniseries for WGN America.
5. There are also a plethora of top executives from private online companies that could be seeking investment capital or an IPO. Or they might be interested in being purchased by a large firm such as Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Netflix or Apple, each of which will have its CEO or another top executive in attendance. Among those private Internet companies are Dropbox, Evernote and SurveyMonkey.