Conferences are casualties of bank woes

Hollywood uses the confabs to interact with Wall Street

NEW YORK -- With the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America and Lehman Bros. filing for bankruptcy protection, expect a further decline in the annual lineup of media and entertainment investor conferences. Hollywood uses the confabs to interact with Wall Street and float trial balloons on new strategies or possible deals.

Six months ago, Wall Street saw Bear Stearns' forced sale to JPMorgan Chase. That came a week after Bear Stearns' annual media and entertainment conference, and Merrill's sale was unveiled Monday, on the heels of a conference of sector investors last week.

Street observers expect Goldman Sachs -- which hosts its annual Communacopia conference in New York on Wednesday and Thursday -- to avoid similar turmoil.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman declined comment on the bank's state Monday, a day ahead of the firm's latest quarterly earnings report. But Goldman has stayed away from the riskier business propositions that have gotten its peers in trouble.

Wall Street's widening crisis and how it could impact media and entertainment companies' slate and other financings could well become a theme at the 17th annual Goldman gathering, along with the expected updates on latest economic and advertising trends.

The event has repeatedly been a venue in which industry heavyweights have tested ideas and looked for investor feedback.

In 2006, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch told the Communacopia conference that talks about a swap of DirecTV for News Corp. shares held by John Malone's Liberty Media had heated up. The deal went down later. Last year, Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons intimated that he was ready to leave the CEO post to Jeffrey Bewkes.

This year, Bewkes will appear Wednesday along with Murdoch, Leslie Moonves, Greg Maffei, Barry Diller and other sector bigwigs.