Greetings from Aspen, Colo., where my Fortune colleagues and I experienced an exhilarating first day of our annual technology conference, Brainstorm Tech.
I’ll share a few quick thoughts today and continue to report during the week and then wrap up when we’re through. First, a word on the environment. Aspen is a magical place to gather oodles of smart people for serious conversations about an important industry. My day began with a brutal 12.5-mile climb on a bike to Maroon Bells. The weather was splendid, but the ride was painful. Note to self: This is the last year I can attempt such a ride without training first.
Egon Durban, the Silver Lake investor, appeared with Michael Dell, whose company the two took private and then combined with EMC. Durban, who met Dell at Brainstorm Tech five years ago and hinted at the EMC transaction two years ago, says Silver Lake is particularly interested in “topticking” undervalued private companies whose hype cycles have waned. He says Silver Lake sees “deep value” in a few. That bears watching.
Glenn Fogel talked about the fascinating ascent of Priceline Group, the $95-billion market capitalization company he heads. Priceline has moved well beyond its “name your price” days of William Shatner hucksterism. Its $135-milion acquisition of Europe’s Booking.com will go down as one of the greatest investments ever as it is the foundation of Priceline’s (PCLN) valuation today. I asked him, given that “Priceline” itself doesn’t count for much anymore, if the company would change its name. Fogel all but acknowledged that a name change is under active consideration.
Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC, made compelling cases for why Google (GOOGL) will face continued monopoly scrutiny and Twitter (TWTR) will struggle with raising its stock price. Brent Thill, a longtime enterprise software analyst now following Internet stocks, made an equally compelling case for why Amazon, through its Amazon Web Services unit, effectively is a software company now.
A highlight of the day for me was my evening interview with Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan. McChyrstal works with corporations now on their leadership challenges. He was diplomatic if unsparing in his assessment of the Trump administration’s foreign policy and the president’s leadership qualities.
Want to watch Brainstorm Tech as it happens today? Follow along on the livestream on fortune.com and consult the agenda here.
Today I’m interviewing Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s (AMZN) retail business, which is about to expand with the purchase of Whole Foods. Wednesday, we have an exciting day planned. Marissa Mayer, the recently departed CEO of Yahoo, will join a breakfast roundtable called “A Life of Learning.” That morning I’ll host a panel on fake news featuring Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Sanger of The New York Times, and Isaac Lee of Univision and Televisa. I’ll also talk technology and recovering from scandal with Tim Sloan, CEO of Wells Fargo (WFC).