I’ve been coming to Herb Allen’s Sun Valley Conference since 2008.
(There are some links below of previous years.)
This year, I almost didn’t come because… why?
Before the conference, there’s always the promise of big deals and secret meetings – but it’s really just… bullshit.
It’s been that way for years. I’m sorry to say, because I like Herb, but his conference is on Life Support.
It’s really a throw-back to the old days when we all believed that media moguls were important. Because everyone who ever held a door for us, or flew our planes for us or drove our cars for us told us we were important. It’s the only reality we know.
Silicon Valley came along and told us we weren’t important. And now, we’re starting to believe it.
But it’s been quite a ride.
Over the years, I’ve Dropped Acid with Barry Diller, participated in something horrible called the Mogulympics (which was totally rigged by Herb Allen in Sheryl Sandberg’s favor). We even did something charitable once called Build-A-Bike (which benefited millionaires less fortunate than us billionaires).
And, who could forget, Burning Mogul – the strangest night of my life. That was back when New Media was new and the tech heroes of today were in high school.
Hell, there was even a production of Rocky Horror put on a couple of years ago.
But, this isn’t a time for reflection, it’s a time to push forward.
But, for many of us, we’re just too tired to do that.
By “us,” I mean “them” – BECAUSE I’M FUCKING STOKED!
LET’S DO THIS, MOGULS!
I was wheels down yesterday about 5:00pm and breezed past the Press – who were caged like veal and set back the required twenty-five yards from the entrance – and greeted my good friend (and valiant adversary) Jeff Katzenberg.
The reporters shouted questions, mostly at Jeff – in the vein of: “Hey, Jeff, what the fuck is Quibe?!”
Poor guy. Nobody knows what the fuck Quibe is – but, with $2 billion, you can get some nice offices.
For many years, I was one of the first ones at the Duchin Lounge (affectionately known as The Drankin’ Hole) but tonight, there were moguls and tech stars mosh-pit deep.
It was like the Chicago Mercantile trading pit trying to get a drink last night.
I decided to stay away from that chaos and retreated to a corner table across the bar. Shari Redstone and Tim Cook were having a relatively quiet conversation (considering all the background noise). They were sharing a bottle of Slivovitz and talking in hushed tones.
I asked if I could join. They greeted me warmly and said I could pull up a chair – but told me I had to get my own booze, there wasn’t any they could spare. They went back to their secretive conversation.
I was quickly saved by the greatest bartender in the world Vin Tran – dirty martini in hand! He didn’t look so good, his face wasn’t the same and he walked with extreme difficulty.
Vin Tran: Mr. Manka! So good to see you again. I saw you walk in and immediately made your drink. Those young drunks screaming over there drive me crazy.
KM: A lot more drinking these days.
Vin Tran: The past two years have made many more alcoholics.
KM: (taking a big gulp) True. What happened, Vin? Last year, didn’t you have surgery to convert to a woman. Weren’t you Jen Tran last year?
Vin Tran: Mr. Manka, turned out to be a mistake. I had the surgery reversed.
KM: They can do that?
Vin Tran: (wincing) Not very well. I must get back – good to see you, sir. I will keep them coming.
I took another drink and tried to engage Tim Cook and Shari Redstone. They downed another shot of Slivovitz – it seemed like steam was coming out of their ears and noses.
“You guys buyers or sellers. I’m trying to have positive attitude but it looks like another dud this year?,” I said.
Shari looked up, slightly annoyed. “I think we will accomplish a great deal this week.”
“OK, ” I said. “Hopefully. Tim, are you shopping for Hollywood studios? You’re gonna need a library for your SVOD service, right?”
“Why, is Manka Brothers for sale?”
“Me? No, Tim. You don’t buy me out. I buy you out.”
Tim laughed. “OK.”
With that, an OLD MAGICIAN with shaking hands doing close-up magic came over to our table. “Anyone here want to pick a card?”
Tim Cook and Shari Redstone got up and moved to another table. Could Apple be buying Viacom? Could I be starting rumors? Am I a trouble maker?
I picked a card and finished my drink. Herb Allen, himself, sat at my table to watch the trick saying, “This guy is so good. He’ll pick your card. Never fails.”
I nodded at Herb as though dealing with a crazy person. This conference is on life support.
Maybe Gayle King interviewing Mike Pompeo will bring it back to life. (I just died a little bit dictating that sentence.)