SUN VALLEY, Idaho – These should have been a glorious time for the big names in tech and media who gathered here last week at this chic hill station.
The nation is recovering from a horrific pandemic, which they helped us survive. Remember how Netflix binging made blockages almost bearable. Amazon helped we eat when we were too afraid to risk COVID by venturing into a supermarket.
As a result of this success, investors continue to reward tycoons with ever higher stock prices that have driven their already insane net worth even higher.
So everyone here should have been happy, right?
Yes, but my gut tells me they weren’t. There was an ominous mood that seemed to ooze through the fake smiles of the billionaires as they disembarked from their carbon-emitting private jets and took their parades to attend the bank-sponsored annual media and technology conference. Allen & Co. investment
You could see it in the hostility of the rental cops team hired to help protect the honchos – mostly reporters begging for tidbits of information about what was going on inside the conference, which was closed to everyone except billionaires and some. select reporters from CNN and CNBC.
The security here, some of which in the past moonlighted with New York cops, can be worrisome. I compared them to aggressive bouncers keeping order at a party in the Hamptons. Since I was old enough to remember them, they also remind me of the cranky dudes outside of the old Studio 54, who broke out fights and decided who could get into the posh nightclub during its heyday. disco.
I don’t want to diminish the work they have to do. Protecting billionaires from potential villains disguised as nerdy reporters is hard work. But this year, their tactics seemed excessive, even by their historical standards. The guards prevented reporters from asking CEOs even the most benign questions. In one case, security was quick to step in and shut down my Fox Business film crew, as we risk intimidating some of the CEOs by simply being near the conference center.
What did the richest and most powerful people in media and technology have to worry about? Here is my theory: The contingent of billionaires who were taking notice here weren’t too keen on the agenda of the conference on the issues of awakened business – criminal justice reform and climate control, the latter courtesy of a seminar led by Bill Gates, who presumably also flew here in his carbon-emitting private jet.
They weren’t all consumed with making deals either, which is the real purpose of bringing a bunch of bankers and CEOs together in the same room. Instead, the main concern for them was fear of what is going on in Washington. They knew that for all their power, their world is about to be turned upside down by a bunch of bureaucrats who make no more than $ 180,000 a year and now want to make their lives miserable.
As this column goes to press, the Biden administration is set to appoint its next Justice Department antitrust chief – who, if past actions mean anything, will want to dissolve Amazon and Google and strike deals with companies. media giants like Comcast almost impossible. This is in addition to a multitude of appointees who see targets instead of billionaires when they hear the words “Sun Valley”.
Of course, former President Donald Trump wasn’t exactly the media and tech’s best friend. In 2018, while the conference was underway, its DOJ filed an appeal to prevent the AT & T-Time Warner merger. Trump failed in court, but the deal recently exploded on its own with AT&T ceding media assets, including CNN, in a deal that creates a new company with Discovery’s David Zaslav at the helm.
But Trump’s breach of trust was more personal than ideological. He hated CNN for its supposedly one-sided coverage of his administration. Likewise, he wanted to stick with Amazon founder “Jeff Bozo” because of Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post hostile to Trump.
Yet Trump and his free market-focused regulators have never challenged Amazon’s dominance in e-commerce, or the dominance of Facebook and Twitter on social media. Even his lawsuit against Google’s dominance in search just before the 2020 election looked more like rushed work to score political points than a real threat to the company’s business model.
This is not the case with the crew assembled by the folks at Biden targeting big business. Lina Khan, the new director of the Federal Trade Commission, for example, wrote a Law Review treatise on the separation from Amazon.
That’s enough to ruin any billionaire’s getaway in Idaho.