Valley of the moguls

July 8, 2008

Swan smallerThey call it the Duck Pond, but it’s actually teaming with (vicious) swans. It’s considered a big media and tech powwow, but a broad swath of global corporate titans of finance and politics round out the guest list.

It’s the 26th annual Allen & Co Sun Valley conference, where high-wattage huddles transpiring on the tranquil resort grounds among stunningly rich business people swathed in questionable leisure wear could end up in big deals months from now. The legend springs from the track record: AOL and Time Warner, Walt Disney and CapCities/ABC, Google and YouTube are all said to have gotten started here.

In between knitting (!), yoga, white-water rafting and golfing, and bridge (!) games execs like Google’s trio Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin mix it up Disney’s Bob Iger, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch.

Although the mood this year is decidedly somber as the deteriorating U.S. economy weighs heavily on the minds of moguls, deal chatter persists and will likely center on what AllthingsD’s Kara Swisher likens to the Godfather-like meeting of the five families — the drama over who’s going to link up, buy, merge, strikes with whom playing out between Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Time Warner and News Corp.

In particular, Yahoo’s Jerry Yang and Sue Decker are under the hotlights again after billionaire investor and career agitator Carl Icahn fired another salvo on Monday urging shareholders to join his campaign to wipe clean the board slate and pave a way towards a deal with Microsoft. Microsoft’s backing Icahn, it seems. The software maker is open to pursuing a deal to buy all or part of Yahoo — only if a new board is elected.

The only thing missing from the pitch: price.

Gordon Crawford of Capital Research & Management, which owns 16.3 percent of Yahoo, is also mulling backing Icahn, Swisher reports. Crawford is expected to attend as well.

Meanwhile, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes could seal a deal to merge the company’s AOL operations with Yahoo and take a stake in the embattled Web giant in time to appease shareholders at Yahoo’s Aug. 1 annual meeting. Or maybe not so fast.

(Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

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Are they trying to tell they are more powerful than the G-8? Are knitting and yoga metaphors here?