Every summer, shortly after the Fourth of July, I take a flight to Sun Valley, Idaho, and plant myself at a table at Konditorei, a quasi-chalet-style cafe just a stone’s throw from the Sun Valley Lodge where the nation’s top tech, media, and other business moguls gather for the annual Allen & Company confab. The idea of trying to cover this billionaires’ summer camp in any conventional sense is, of course, absurd. The small group of journalists invited to participate as guests or moderators—Gayle King, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Erin Burnett—are bound by off-the-record agreements, while those on the outside (from Bloomberg, CNBC, etc.) are left to scramble for pro forma interviews or perfunctory quotes on the rope line. Ever since the Allens forbade reporters from drinking with attendees at the bar, most journalists have opted to stay home and pine, rather tiresomely, for the old days.
Personally, I’ve found that many attendees are still quite willing to meet, off the record, on the sidelines, here at Konditorei or under a quaking aspen, and that such a source-cultivating speed-dating exercise is far too valuable to pass up. Moreover, there’s always the occasional interesting tidbit from the inside: For instance, Marc Andreessen, the investor-entrepreneur and Meta board member, was on a panel with Peter Thiel this morning and issued a full-throated endorsement for the possible cage fight between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. It was, he said, a return to how humans have historically defended themselves, and he called for all parents to train their children in martial arts in anticipation of an increasingly violent and uncertain world. (That guy…) Both Andreessen and Thiel also strongly advocated that all the attending moguls homeschool their kids.
Meanwhile, Larry Summers offered some insightful observations about the increased value of E.Q., rather than I.Q., in an A.I.-driven world. Bob Iger will take the stage Friday, and will presumably be asked by Sorkin about the breaking news that he’s extending his putative two-year second run at Disney until 2026—itself a signal that the company’s challenges outweigh the talents and operating capacities of available successors. Some eagle-eyed observers said they could sense something was afoot as early as breakfast on Wednesday morning, and noted that this mid-July announcement was obviously timed to grab the Sun Valley spotlight.