What's Going Down At The Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference

The Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference is at the halfway mark and dozens of the world’s most influential people have three days left to forge relationships and make deals in comfort and secrecy.

The week-long conference is hosted and wholly funded by Allen & Company, a private investment firm, at a resort in Sun Valley, Idaho.

The firm specializes in the technology and media spaces, and has been the advisor in a slew of major M&A deals including Time Warner Inc TWX’s merger with Charter, Facebook Inc FB’s acquisition of Whatsapp and Verizon Communications Inc. VZ’s acquisition of Yahoo!.

Allen & Company was also one of the underwriters for Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL’s and Twitter Inc TWTR’s IPOs.

The conference is invitation-only and shrouded in secrecy. The public and media have limited access to the resort, and the complete list of invitees is unknown.

Who’s Who At Sun Valley

The conference is attended by business leaders, political actors and major philanthropic and cultural figures.

Some of the names on the list include Apple Inc. AAPL CEO Tim Cook, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett and Discovery Communications Inc. DISCA CEO David Zaslav.

Political figures in attendance include the president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are there on their own time and money.

Other leaders schmoozing it up in Sun Valley are coming from:

  • Comcast Corporation CMCSA.
  • Dell Inc.
  • EBay Inc EBAY.
  • Electronic Arts Inc. EA.
  • General Motors Company GM.
  • GoPro Inc GPRO.
  • Nextdoor.
  • Snap Inc SNAP.
  • Y Combinator.
  • Zynga Inc ZNGA.

A History Of Deals

A number of high-profile mergers and acquisitions were born out of the conference, which Allen & Company first hosted 1983.

They range from longstanding successes, like Walt Disney Co DIS and ABC at the 1994 conference, to the ill-fated merger of Time Warner with AOL, which was conceptualized at the 1999 conference.

Comcast and NBCUniversal had already been in talks for months prior to the former acquiring the latter, but the deal wasn’t struck until Comcast Chief Operations Officer Steve Burke and Jeff Immelt, the CEO of then-NBCUniversal owner General Electric Company GE, met in secret on the resort’s golf course.

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer was also seen having drinks with the CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong, at the conference in 2014, prompting speculation of a deal between the two. Just this year the companies did merge into the newly-titled Oath, under Verizon.

Even individuals have made moves at the conference, with a highlight being Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN, acquiring the Washington Post in 2013.

But the conference is not only host to business talks. In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg met then-mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker at the conference. Afterwards, he donated $100 million to Newark’s public schools.

What To Look For

The general public won’t be able to get the details of what went down in Sun Valley until at least next week, but there are a few things investors will be looking out for.

Spotify’s founder Daniel Ek will be in attendance, and the company has already indicated that it is eyeing an IPO. The music streaming service is the second largest independent subscription service after Netflix, Inc. NFLX.

Allen & Company may come out of the weekend as an underwriter, or the Spotify could end up in talks to scrap any IPO plans and be acquired instead. The company is still not profitable.

Verizon is likely scouting a new path to its own video programming in the face of AT&T Inc. T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which owns HBO and Warner Bros.

Verizon is reportedly open to Comcast and CBS Corporation CBS, especially now that Disney is definitely not being considered for a deal.

The CEO of Slack, Stewart Butterfield, also received an invitation to the conference. Recently there has been chatter of an acquisition by Amazon.

Amazon itself is among several tech giants moving to expand their original, long-form content offerings. Facebook, Apple and Google are likely scouting new advertising and production partnerships.

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