Herb Allen's five-day retreat ends on high note

Yahoo/Microsoft, charity were among topics

Sun Valley, IDAHO -- Money -- not so much how to get it but how to spend it -- was the topic du jour as several hundred media moguls wound down their five-day stay at Herb Allen's exclusive annual retreat in this remote corner of the country.

Despite depressing economic news from the outside world, the confab ended on a high note with remarks from America's richest men – Microsoft's Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett.

The former spoke about fund-raising for his charitable foundation and what global initiatives the foundation is involved in, while the latter discussed how dollars could be spent to help the country.

"Bill said amazing things," said James Robinson, former chairman of American Express. "He had all sorts of things to say about raising money for such things as medicine and diseases. He was very engaging and interesting, as he is every year."

About 200 of those left at the conference traipsed in from bike riding or tennis or boating to the conference center to hear the two keynotes -- which had a ridiculously inordinate amount of security, with every entrance and exit to the speakers' hall watched by four guards.

Among the media types who showed up to hear the billionaires' take on what money can do for the public good Friday were the William Morris Agency's Jim Wiatt, Yahoo's Sue Decker, ICM's Chris Silbermann, Google's Sergei Brin and Larry Page, Starr & Co.'s Ken Starr, News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, Time Warner's Richard Parsons, Scripps' Ken Lowe, former Disney chair Michael Eisner, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

Though almost half the invitees departed on Friday night, some stayed on to celebrate host and Wall Street financier Allen during a special dinner Saturday night.

And, as every year, a special outdoor ice show (in the middle of summer!!!) was performed behind the Sun Valley Lodge.

On Friday night, Murdoch and Parsons were secluded at a table in the Sun Valley Lodge bar, discussing either some pending deal -- or the mixed drinks they wanted to order.

Parsons, who stepped down as Time Warner chair last November, earlier told a reporter he was happy to be a simple observer.

"Once you've been kicked to the curb, you tend to find it's comfortable there," he joked to the Associated Press.

Aside from philanthropy, the other key preoccupation running through the five-day mogul meet was the on-again, off-again Yahoo/Microsoft hook-up.

Murdoch opined to a Reuters reporter that there probably would not be a deal for the two companies.

"There won't be a deal," he said. "There's bad personal feelings."

(Microsoft had offered $47.5 billion for the Internet behemoth, but withdrew that bid in May after apparently becoming frustrated with the discussions.)

"In six months, Microsoft will walk away," Murdoch said.

The News Corp. owner also said it was unlikely that his conglom would get into the mix for Yahoo.

Murdoch would later lament that he has yet to find his wedding ring, which he lost two days ago, much to his wife Wendy's chagrin. He would only say it had "sentimental value." (The ring is theoretically still in some crevice in the Sun Valley Lodge lobby or along some bike path.)