Sun Valley Mogul Confab Sets Early Guest List

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Leslie Moonves

The annual gathering organized by Allen & Co. is expected to attract Jeffrey Bewkes, Leslie Moonves and a gaggle of Murdochs -- minus Wendi.

July 9 marks day one of the Allen & Co. gathering of media moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho. The full list of attendees has yet to leak, though insiders are acknowledging some of the names expected at the 31st annual event.

Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes is expected, though there’s no indication yet that new -- and apparently very busy -- Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara will attend.

Activision Blizzard CEO (and Moneyball actor) Bobby Kotick will attend, as will CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, Paramount Pictures head Brad Grey and, briefly, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, sources say.

And News Corp. is expected to be well represented, with Rupert Murdoch and sons James and Lachlan Murdoch scheduled and probably president and COO Chase Carey, too. Wendi Deng was there last year but probably won’t be this year because Rupert Murdoch is divorcing her.

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Last year, News Corp. was a hot topic, given it had recently announced its intention to split into two entities. This year, attendees can gauge the early success of that decision, given that Friday will mark the first day that 21st Century Fox and the new News Corp are officially considered separately traded companies.

Another repeat might be Hulu. Last year and the year prior to that, its owners – Disney, News Corp. and NBCUniversal – were wondering aloud what to do with the Internet asset. This year, industry insiders no doubt will already know details of a bidding process that’s underway. Bids are due Friday, and DirecTV and a couple of other suitors reportedly are willing to shell out more than $1 billion for the streaming-media company, which garnered $695 million in revenue in 2012 from advertising and from the 4 million subscribers to its Hulu Plus service.

Another repeating topic might be the performance of Facebook stock, given that its high-profile initial public offering was just 2 months old at the last gathering, but its stock had already dropped like a stone and made a partial comeback by then. It’s down even further since last year’s event.

It’s not known yet whether Barry Diller will make the trip (he did last year), but his Aereo, which some TV executives deem a fancy device for enabling piracy, no doubt will monopolize a few conversations whether or not he's there to defend the gadget.

Probably not making a repeat performance this year will be Occupy Wall Street protesters, given that the movement has lost significant steam over the past several months. Last year, OWS activists wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Greed Kills” hung a banner reading “White Collar Crime Scene” and laid on the ground as if murdered near a restaurant where Google co-founder Sergey Brin and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were dining.

Media moguls typically use the conference hosted by Allen & Co., a boutique investment banking house, to schmooze (one attendee last year called it a “suckfest”) and sometimes brainstorm potential partnerships, acquisitions and mergers. This year is expected to be no different, though specific predictions are difficult. Here, though, are some examples of past deals that appear to trace their beginnings to the Sun Valley extravaganza.

  1. Three weeks after the 1996 Sun Valley gathering, Disney purchased CapCities/ABC for $19 billion, a deal that brought Bob Iger to the conglomerate. Nine years later, he was named Disney CEO.
  2. In 1999, Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin had a conversation with AOL CEO Steve Case that several months later resulted in AOL Time Warner, a $164 billion deal. Within three years, Time Warner dropped AOL from its name and took a $99 billion write-down because of the ill-fated merger.
  3. In 2007, the availability of Dow Jones & Co. dominated the Sun Valley chatter. Within days of the close of the conference, the Wall Street Journal reported that News Corp. had agreed to purchase Dow Jones for about $5 billion.
  4. In 2009, Comcast co-founder Ralph Roberts and then-COO Steve Burke met with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt in Sun Valley. Five months later, it was announced that GE would sell its controlling interest in NBCUniversal to Comcast.

Georg Szalai contributed to this report.