Herb Allen’s Sun Valley Conference
Day 1 — Day 2 – Day 2.5 – Day 3
The sight of Harvey Weinstein in tight gym shorts is an image that I won’t soon forget.
But let me back up.
I am dictating this in a secret business center somewhere beneath the Sun Valley Lodge after experiencing one of the most horrific and demoralizing mornings of my life.
At 4:30 am, I was blasted awake by “The Call of the Moguls” fanfare (written by Michael Eisner years ago when he still had power). As I had only gone to bed a couple of hours before (because I was pounding drinks well into the wee hours with my new drinking buddy Chase Carey), this was a most unwelcome sound.
In the room next to me, I could hear Eric Schmidt screaming out the window “Shut the fuck up!”
An envelope slid under my door. I opened it and recognized Herb’s handwriting:
“Please report to Herb Allen Field immediately! Wear your gym clothes and sneakers. – Herb A.”
So I did as I was told and dragged myself down to a converted grassy area that has been rebranded “Herb Allen Field” for the length of the conference.
I immediately saw Jeffrey Katzenberg and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner hopping up and down, stretching. A few others were mingling about but I couldn’t make out their faces in the dark.
That’s when I saw Harvey Weinstein in his too small gym shorts and too small t-shirt smoking a cigarette. Don’t get me wrong, I like Harvey quite a bit, but man…
For the next few moments, I just sort of stood there in the pre-dawn staring at the ground. This was an epic hangover. What I needed was sleep and a large a quantity of bacon. In that order. Not this bullshit.
After another anthem – “The Dawn of the Mogul” – finished playing, a loud coaches whistle pierced all of our brains. There were various grunts and swears from the assembled moguls.
Herb Allen appeared, fresh and full of energy. He reminded me, with his baseball cap and coaches whistle, of Donner – the reindeer coach from “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”… Sorry, that’s the most current reference I can think of. If you saw him, you would say the same thing.
Herb Allen: OK, gentlemen, you made it through the night–
Rupert Murdoch: Where are the women?
Herb Allen: I don’t know, Rupert, why don’t you hack into their emails to find out?
Rupert Murdoch: You shall be murdered, you son of a fucking–
Herb Allen: Calm down. I’m joking, Rupert. The women are having spa treatments. I gave them an option – because they aren’t flabby and undisciplined. You assholes don’t get an option.
Khan Manka, Jr.: Fuck that shit.
Herb Allen approached me like a crazy drill sergeant.
Herb Allen: What was that, Manka?
Khan Manka: I said, ‘Fuck that shit, Herb.’ I speak for my fellow moguls when I say we are all too hungover for this crap. I choose spa treatments, too!
At that moment, Sheryl Sandberg ran up and fell into the line of moguls.
Sheryl Sandberg: Sorry, I’m late. I had a 5:00 a.m. conference call with China. I’m ready.
Les Moonves: Oooh… We do business with China, too, Facebook lady. Big deal.
Tim Armstrong: (to Sheryl, pointing to his ear) – I’m on a call right now but I was on time.
Sheryl Sandberg: Hi, Tim, I wanted to ask you about Patch. How’s that going?
Tim Armstrong: Oh, no, you didn’t!
Herb Allen blows his whistle and screamed for everyone to calm down. He then explained why we were all there. He has started a ridiculous new annual tradition called “Mogulympics”…
Herb Allen: (he continued) … this competition is designed to encourage physical fitness among our most elite moguls. Because a flabby mogul is less likely to adapt to change. Flabby moguls tend to be more lazy and set in their ways. Flabby moguls are not the future leaders of media.
Harvey Weinstein: (smoking) – Suck it, Herb.
Herb Allen: How the hell did you wrangle an invite this year, Weinstein? You’re not even a mogul anymore.
Harvey Weinstein: “King’s Speech” – Academy Award. Scoreboard, bitch.
Things sort of degenerated from there. More fighting, more snippy little remarks about old media from the new media and tech people…
Finally, Herb got everyone onto the field and the first Mogulympics began.
I won’t do a blow-by-blow account of all the competitions as I am due to serve on a panel with Bob Iger and Steve Burke on how best to preserve our core businesses while growing new businesses.
(Here’s what I say: “MAKE GOOD CONTENT THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BUY!” – end of panel discussion. Let’s go drink.)
HERE ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS (there were only four events – more to be added each year):
High Jump: Winner – Jeffrey Katzenberg – final height – 4′ 3″. Jon Miller should have won but he kept trying to extend into the Chinese splits while going over the bar.
Long Jump: Winner – Jason Kilar – final distance – 8′ 2″ (but it’s possible his medal will be acquired by another mogul – ha!). This event was Rupert’s best chance to get a medal but he kept fouling. He seemed distracted.
400 Meters: Winner – Sheryl Sandberg (untimed). Bob Iger was in position to win it until someone in the pack made a crack to Sheryl about ‘the glass ceiling’ and she took off like a gazelle, crushing the field. I walked the final 350 meters with Harvey. He tried to convince me that he wasn’t overweight no matter how much he smokes, drinks and eats every day .
100 Meters: Winner – Sheryl Sandberg (untimed). You know, moguls just can’t run – and probably shouldn’t try. And by this point in the competition most of us had stopped participating and were on our phones. Sheryl beat Mark Pincus (though he forgot his tennis shoes and was only wearing flip-flops), Jeff Weiner and Andrew Mason of Groupon.
Sheryl Sandberg was named Herb Allen’s Top Mogul Athlete of the Conference and received a trophy similar to the picture above. For her victory she will receive an automatic invite to next year’s conference to defend her title.
When it was all over and we had thoroughly embarrassed ourselves in front of each other, I quickly retreated to the Great Hall of the Moguls dining room and ate a pound of bacon.
The women who chose the spa treatment option (Oprah, Diane Von Furstenberg, etc.) were lounging in bath robes, drinking coffee, having a leisurely breakfast. The sort of thing moguls should be doing.
That was my morning. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day will bring.
Khan Manka, Jr. – Chairman & CEO – Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company