For Idahoans, just another Allen conference

The rich and famous are all around, but 'you don't ogle and you don't intrude,' one resident says.


SUN VALLEY - As media, political and industry moguls flock to the annual Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference, journalists and other onlookers sharpen their focus, eager to see famous faces and learn about blockbuster deals.

Sun Valley and Ketchum residents simply go about their lives, paying little attention.

"When you see the jets come in, you know it's that time of year," said Annette Taylor, barista at the Iconoclast Bookstore and Cafe.

This week's conference started late Tuesday, with a guest list of more than 100 government officials, investors, media heads, technology gurus and those who need no introduction - Zuckerberg, Gates, Murdoch, Weinstein.

Allen & Co., a private investment firm, has sponsored the gathering in Sun Valley since 1983. The event features presentations and discussions while allowing industry executives to mingle in a relaxed setting. The conference has been known to foster major acquisitions or company mergers.

Journalists were corralled in a small, fenced area. And if they pursued those who did not want to chat, they were kicked out.

Among the news organizations represented were The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, the New York Post and Fox Business.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., surprised journalists when he walked through the fenced area, snapping a quick "sorry" when asked for interviews.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt promised interviews later. Film mogul Harvey Weinstein did the same, adding, "You know the embargo here."

Security guards stopped any confused shoppers who wandered beyond the fencing. Carter Scott, a skinny boy from Bismarck, N.D., who was hoping to spot Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, held his camera phone close for several hours.

"There's not a lot of celebrities" in North Dakota, he said.

But people who call this area home pretty much know the drill.

"You don't ogle and you don't intrude and you don't ask for autographs," Meg Mazzocchi said. "Just let them enjoy their vacation. ... That's why Sun Valley is popular."

Mazzocchi, a Ketchum resident working at The Toy Store, said she just shrugs off the event. She saw Oprah at the gym last year, and some celebrities have come into the store this year. Otherwise, she doesn't pay them much attention.

"I'm so not interested from having lived up here for 30 years," she said.

The conference is a mixed blessing to the town - moguls and hangers-on will book restaurants, keeping locals out but giving big business to the establishment and wait staff, Mazzocchi said. "You do have to adjust," she said.

Those attending the conference bring a lot of business to Sun Valley, said Taylor, a lifelong resident. She said one person paid for coffee with an unusually heavy, metal credit card.

"It is a good thing, but it is a frustrating thing because you have to be on your toes this week," she said. "It's just intimidating. There are very powerful people here."

Michael Murphy, manager of Silver Creek Outfitters, said he isn't fazed by the event. "That's not the first time I've seen Rupert Murdoch," he said.

Murphy said the only thing he doesn't like about the conference is the gaggle of reporters. "But they'll be gone in a couple of days," he said, looking out his window.

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