Sun Valley Media Mogul Report

Ron Mwangaguhunga reports:

It’s July, so that means that the chattering class big guns are out and about in Sun Valley, Idaho, at investment banker Herb Allen‘s mogul retreat for a little “deep think” interspersed with rounds of golf. There is always, lurking in the green, the possible dramatic tension of the merger-subplot-scenario. Heather Godchild, chief media analyst at Standard and Poor’s credit rating service, told the Seattle Times: “Bucolic it may be, but this is a chessboard. You’ve got major, major players there thinking through some big questions.”

Much of the reporting coming out of Sun Valley appears to revolve around four themes:

  • 1. Rupert Murdoch Watching, which is a form of media-driven spectator sport involving the parsing of Mr. Murdoch’s every utterance for a cue as to when — or if — there will be a satisfying resolution to the $60-a-share deal for Dow Jones
  • 2. What is the future of media distribution?
  • 3. What will be the effect of private equity on the media entertainment industry?
  • 4. No one can get enough of Facebook, which most recently has been featured in both Time and Howie Kurtz‘s Reliable Sources last Sunday.

    The runner-up?

    From Reuters: “Scandanavia-based Web service Joost may be a close second for attention after rapidly landing distribution deals with the world’s biggest media companies.”

    Of the Rupert watchers, the AP’s Seth Sutel yesterday got Murdoch to admit of the Bancroft family that “they keep changing their mind.” To David Carr in DealBookBlogs of the New York Times — fresh off the paper’s Rupert expose — Murdoch was less than friendly:

    Your humble editorial servant, noting that Mr.Murdoch seemed to be in a loquacious, cooperative mood, trotted after him for his own comment. ‘Hi, I’m David Carr and I work for the New York Times and’ — that’s about as far as I got. He was dispatched quickly by a friendly looking security guy in a baseball hat and by the mogul himself, who said, or non-said, ‘I have nothing to say.’ Dealbook did not take it personally, figuring that broader institutional dynamics must have been at work.

    Gee, ya think? The New York magazine Katie Couric profile, by Friday, still has, er, legs. Sumner Redstone — who believes that Google and Viacom can have a peaceful coexistence — pulls himself away from his Beverly hills cactus garden and weighs in. From DealBookBlogs:

    Sumner Redstone, as is his annual habit, held forth to reporters Friday at the Inn in Sun Valley on the third day of Allen & Company’s media summit. He took some time to respond to last night’s criticism of Viacom from Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, but the big elephant in the lobby was, of course, Katie Couric. Responding to a recent article in New York magazine, in which Ms. Couric seemed to be complaining about her time at CBS, Mr. Redstone said, “I don’t like when anyone takes shots at Les [Moonves]. I like Les.” He added that the report card on ‘CBS Evening News’ had yet to be written.

    True, but the red pen is out. And what’s a mogul retreat without a touch of mystery? From Reuters:

    Two Allen & Co. conference veterans are returning under a shroud of mystery. Former Viacom CEO Tom Freston is scheduled to attend as head of Firefly3 LLC. Lachlan Murdoch, the focus of heavy speculation that he will return to his father’s News Corp., attends as head of his new Australian venture, Illyria.

    Says FT: “There may also be family drama. Lachlan Murdoch and his wife, Sara, arrived in a Toyota Avalon on Tuesday evening and promptly ducked a question about whether he was planning a return to News Corp. following his departure two years ago. “It’s just a great place to come. I’m looking forward to it very much,” Mr. Murdoch said before helping his wife into a car and speeding away.

    Lachlan, however, didn’t dramatically outdo Freston, according to TheDealBlogs:

    To [Warren] Buffett‘s old-media apostle, ousted Viacom Inc. chief Tom Freston is uniquely qualified to play apostate. Looking as incandescent as a firefly, which happens to be the name of his new limited liability company, media’s original Zen man worked the room as if a Web 1.0 startup in search of an angel.

    Nor did Freston — who seems to be everywhere these days — outdo Dick Parsons, sartorially speaking.

    Says TheDealBlogs: “For real sartorial color, Parsons was the attendee to beat, with a red shirt complemented by a red CNN-logo cap.”

    And speaking of fashion — and Carr seems unimpressed at the moguls’ sense of chic — what of Mrs. Diller? Says TheDealBlogs: “All week in Sun Valley, matriarch and designer Diane von Furstenberg has been a press favorite for arriving both friendly and photo-friendly at the mogulfest’s unconscionably early session. But she outdid herself Friday when, on approaching the assembled press, she confirmed her blouse was “one of her creations.” Then, without missing a beat, she pointed to her son, Alexandre, walking beside her: ‘And this is one of my creations, too.’ Minutes later, patriarch and IAC/InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller approached the same press pack on a bicycle, pedaling so furiously as to scatter a few photographers. ‘It’s going to be a long day,’ he said when an ID request from security forced him to halt.”

    Even Barry Diller can have a bad day.