A look back at classic deals of Sun Valley’s past


Investment bank Allen & Co’s famous Sun Valley conference kicked off Tuesday in Sun Valley, ID with the usual herd of technology and media executives attending.

The retreat enters its 31st anniversary this year and is often referred to as summer camp for billionaires. It’s where the business elite come to rub elbows — and sometimes make some deals.

Two recent proposed mega mergers–Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s deal with DirecTV–would consolidate the pay-TV industry in the U.S., leaving pundits to speculate about more media industry acquisitions. Scripps Networks and Discovery could be heavily courted, as well as smaller Internet-based services like Vevo, known for online music videos.

But, before any new acquisitions go down, here’s a look back at some of the major Sun Valley deals in years past.

1996: Disney buys Cap-Cities ABC

Disney (DIS) paid $19 billion to acquire Capital-Cities ABC, creating the world's largest entertainment company at the time. While Disney CEO Michael Eisner said the deal had been discussed casually for years, the details were worked out with Cap Cities/ABC chairman Thomas Murphy over the week in Sun Valley.

1999: AOL and Time Warner agree to join forces

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: The AOL Time Warner headquarters is seen September 19, 2003 in New York City. The board of AOL Time Warner on September 18, 2003 voted to remove AOL from its name and revert to its old New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol of TMX . (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

During the week at the Idaho resort, Time Warner (TWX) CEO Gernald Levin and AOL (AOL) CEO Steve Case floated the idea of a combined company, which would lead to the $162 billion deal several months later. This may also be the most spectacularly failed merger of all Sun Valley deals: Three years later Time Warner ditched AOL from its name and took a $99 billion write-down. In 2009, it washed its hands of AOL entirely by spinning it off into its own company.

2000: Viacom snaps up BET

After returning from Sun Valley, BET founder Robert Johnson and Viacom (VIA) president Mel Karmazin hammered out a deal for about $3 billion dollars, sealing the media conglomerate's purchase of the African-American focused media company.

2006: Google acquires YouTube

YouTube's Chad Hurley was a darling of the 2006 Sun Valley conference and Google (GOOG) was quickly smitten. Google's then CEO Eric Schmidt wooed Hurley with a $1.7 billion stock deal for the video-sharing service. Nearly eight years later, YouTube brought in about $3.5 billion in revenue for the Internet company.

2007: News Corp wins over Dow Jones

While Rupert Murdoch had to battle some up and down moments during the 2007 retreat, he eventually struck a $5 billion deal for News Corp (NWS) to take over Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal by the end of the week. The Bancroft family, which owned 64% of Dow Jones' shares, had been divided over the sale due to worries that the Journal would remain editorially independent.

2009: Comcast buys NBCUniversal stake from General Electric

Comcast (CMCSA) co-founder Ralph Roberts connected with GE (GE) CEO Jeffrey Immelt over the Sun Valley week, setting the stage for GE to sell its controlling stake in NBCUniversal to the cable company. The deal gave Comcast a 51% stake in NBCUniversal, and GE maintained control over the minority shares remaining while taking in about $8 billion in the transaction.

2013: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon.com, snapped up legendary newspaper The Washington Post for $250 million cash during last year's Sun Valley retreat. Host Allen & Co. assisted the sale, and Bezos became the paper's sole owner.

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