Sun Valley, Idaho
By Rick Wilking
In between covering tornadoes and forest fires this year I have covered several business conferences and related stories. Starting with the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, to the SALT hedge fund conference, to the Wal-Mart annual meeting I’m now at the big kahuna, the Allen and Company conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Never heard of the Allen and Co. conference? Well maybe that’s because most of the attendees are people you’ve never heard of either. Even though they are millionaires and billionaires, huge investors and big-time global CEOs, most of the people here stay far off the radar. Even if you have heard of their companies you probably haven’t heard of their leaders, let alone seen a picture of them.
But then there’s the “A-Listers” of technology and media companies attending. Many people have heard of Mark Zuckerberg (founder and CEO of Facebook) or Tim Cook (the new CEO of Apple, replacing the late Steve Jobs) or the venerable Warren Buffet. But have you heard of Philippe Dauman? (CEO of Viacom, the company behind networks like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central and movie studio Paramount.)
How about Rakuten and its CEO Hiroshi Mikitani? It’s the Amazon of Japan and he’s a billionaire.
Covering the conference is more challenging than it might appear. The media here is tolerated but only to a point. The host only allows you on the (private) property mostly because we all stay at the hosting Sun Valley Resort and are thus also guests. They won’t credential us or give us any access to the meeting itself at all. David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery Communications (one of the few CEOs who actually are willing to talk to us) put it well today when he said to me while waiting outside the meeting “they want you here but they don’t want you here. They do want the pictures though.”