Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger, Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos and OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman are expected to attend panel discussions and chat with fellow moguls as issues such as the rise of artificial intelligence and the future of streaming take center stage at investment bank Allen & Co.’s annual conference.
The summit, which takes place this week in Sun Valley, Idaho, is typically a hotbed for etching out mergers over handshakes. But it could take on a much different tone this year against the backdrop of lackluster deal volume, inflation and higher interest rates. Activision Blizzard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick just won a federal court ruling supporting his company’s $69 billion sale to Microsoft Corp. — a decision that will ripple across the deal economy. Both he and Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella are regular attendees.
Arrivals begin Tuesday, with some guests trickling in the day prior to get settled. The private jets ferrying the executives are expected to back up the small airport in Hailey, Idaho, as they do every year.
Here are key things to look for:
- Disney’s succession plans are again in focus after Iger returned to the media conglomerate as CEO in November. With his contract expiring in December 2024, eyeballs will also be on the invitees who are next in line: theme parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro and TV chief Dana Walden. Disney is also seeking a new CFO after Christine McCarthy’s departure.
- Speaking of Disney, its ownership of Hulu is still up in the air. Comcast Corp., which owns a third of the streaming service, has an agreement that could force Disney to buy out its stake next year in a deal that values the entire business at a minimum of $27.5 billion. The two sides haven’t agreed on a final valuation, however.
- The future of golf will be on attendees’ minds particularly after Allen & Co. worked with the PGA Tour on its proposed merger with LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. A US Senate committee holds a hearing Tuesday on the combination. PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan appeared on a list of invitees to the conference, but he’s no longer expected to attend after taking a medical leave.
- The fate of CNN is a must-watch for many industry players: The network is searching for a new leader for the second time in a little over two years after the ouster of Chris Licht last month. There are also questions of its future within Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., although the company is planning to add CNN’s live programming to its Max streaming service later this year, Bloomberg News reported.
- With Elon Musk last year taking up a huge amount of attention with the saga of him buying Twitter, there’ll be a very different vibe at the conference for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Meta last week launched a Twitter rival with the Threads app. Musk wasn’t on the list of attendees this year.
- A screenwriter’s strike has made it an uneasy summer for the entertainment industry, halting most film and TV production. The Writers Guild has been on the picket line since May 2 after failing to reach a deal with the studios. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which represents Netflix Inc., Disney and other media companies, has been negotiating with other unions and recently reached a deal with the Directors Guild of America. The studios’ contract with actors is set to expire on Wednesday.
–With assistance from Ed Ludlow and Malathi Nayak.