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When Billionaires Converge in Sun Valley

Inside Camp Mogul

by PAUL KRASSNER

My irreverent friend, Khan Manka, Chairman & CEO of Manka Brothers Studios, had broken his ankle and was afraid he wouldn’t be able to attend the 26th annual gathering of the nation’s most powerful executives and their trophy wives in Sun Valley, Idaho. I really wanted to spy on this summer camp for billionaires, so I suggested that Manka get a wheelchair, then I could serve as his official wheelchair pusher, and he immediately went for the idea.

This by-now traditional five-day extravaganza for 300 guests has been hosted by Wall Street investment banker Herbert Allen, President and CEO of Allen & Company. There were moguls all over the campground, overflowing with the country’s most influential leaders in business, entertainment and media. I could feel myself developing a severe case of imposter syndrome.

Saturday was Talent Night, and it was absolutely hysterical. Part-time Sun Valley resident Tom Hanks served as the emcee. Warren Buffet was the opening act, with a medley of Jimmy Buffet songs, all sung out of tune. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos skillfully juggled five Kindels (wireless electronic books). Edgar Bronfman from Warner Music–dressed like the character Tevya in *Fiddler on the Roof*–sang with zest, “If I Were a Rich Man.” Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang–who had turned down an offer from Microsoft to buy Yahoo earlier this year–sang a duet with the ex-CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, harmonizing on a song from *Annie Get Your Gun,* “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.” Meg Whitman of eBay did a striptease, auctioning off each item of clothing, one at a time, and over 3-million dollars was raised for an unnamed charity.

There had been a lot of drinking in the evening, and it was obviously too much booze that loosened up Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch’s tongue. He was shouting at the moon: “Who says there are 27 million slaves around the fucking world? How would anybody know? Do they have census takers or what? Where can I get one? You tell me! I’ll decide!”

Also, a screaming match broke out between the co-founders of Google, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt, over the infamous cover of the *New Yorker,* which depicted Barack and Michelle Obama as the new President and First Lady, as a terrorist couple doing the fist-bump gesture in the Oval Office. Sergei thought it was a brilliant satirical illustration, but Eric thought it was racist and irresponsible.

Last year, the surprise guest was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This year, it was Steven Beschloss, the editor of a new magazine which will be launched this fall and be delivered to 100,000 U.S. households with an average net worth of $25-million. There were piles of preview copies scattered about.

While Beschloss was holding court in an outdoor area, annoying mosquitoes kept buzzing around the crowd. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, yelled at him, “I gues we’ll never hear *your* readers whining about a mental recession. And those of your subscribers who are in the sub-prime mortgage industry–these mosquitoes are *their* fault, because, along with all the home foreclosures they’re responsible for, the stagnant water in abandoned pools turns into new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

Others drowned him out by singing the mogul version of good old-fashioned camp songs, such as “This Land Is *My* Land, This Land Is *My* Land” and “KumBuyYahoo.” I couldn’t help but notice that billionaire activist Carl Icahn snapped his fingers as if having an epiphany; a week later he ended up on Yahoo’s board of directors.

Khan Manka explained that the bigwigs at these events have so-called “informal” meetings which always take place where a pair of individuals can have their discussions alone without any interruption–on the golf course, hiking along an isolated trail, fly-fishing at Silver Creek–but Manka had been privy to only one specific example that he could share.

“Back in 1995,” he told me, “Disney honcho Michael Eisner met with Robert Iger, who was then the head of ABC. And exactly one month later, these two giant companies merged into one media megamonster.Coincidence? I don’t think so. Their deal had been sealed when Eisner and Iger exchanged friendship bracelets that they had worked on at Camp Mogul.”

PAUL KRASSNER is the editor of The Realist. His books include: Pot Stories for the Soul, One Hand Jerking and Murder at the Conspiracy Convention. He can be reached through his website: http://paulkrassner.com/